Born: June 16, 1829, Arizona

Died: February 17, 1909, Lawton, OK  80 years old

On one of my searches yesterday I came across the above picture that was captioned with the text directly below. Now, being from New Mexico I truly thought I knew everything there was to know about this Apache warrior, come to find out, (this is a little embarrassing),  I was wrong. I had no idea that he died as a POW of the United States. He was held at Fort Sill, OK. He was later buried there at the Apache Indian Prisoner of War cemetary. I decided to do some research into Geronimo’s life and I happened upon a site that has (among other great things) Geronimo’s Biography. I’ve read through it and I have to say,  being able to read the stories HE penned is an extraordinary honor. (The history geek in me is shining bright now).

Since this discovery is due to research of his POW days, I thought I would share this excerpt of his Biography now. If this goes over well, I’ll probably share more in the near future. I hope you find this as interesting as I did. Enjoy!

The caption that was with the above image: 

In February 1909, Geronimo was thrown from his horse while riding home, lay in the cold all night before a friend found him. He died of pneumonia on 2/17/1909, as a prisoner of the U.S. at Fort Sill, OK. His last words were reported to be said to his nephew, “I should have never surrendered. I should have fought until I was the last man alive.” He was buried at Fort Sill, OK in the Apache Indian Prisoner of War Cemetery.

Council between General Crook and Geronimo, 1886

Prisoner of War

When I had given up to the Government they put me on the Southern Pacific Railroad and took me to San Antonio, Texas, and held me to be tried by their laws.

In forty days they took me from there to Fort Pickens (Pensacola), Florida. Here they put me to sawing up large logs. There were several other Apache warriors with me, and all of us had to work every day. For nearly two years we were kept at hard labor in this place and we did not see our families until May, 1887. This treatment was in direct violation of our treaty made at Skeleton Canyon.

After this we were sent with our families to Vermont, Alabama, where we stayed five years and worked for the Government. We had no property, and I looked in vain for General Miles to send me to that land of which he had spoken; I longed in vain for the implements, house, and stock that General Miles had promised me.

During this time one of my warriors, Fun, killed himself and his wife. Another one shot his wife and then shot himself. He fell dead, but the woman recovered and is still living.

Squash Harvest–Geronimo and his family. POW Camp, undated

We were not healthy in this place, for the climate disagreed with us. So many of our people died that I consented to let one of my wives go to the Mescalero Agency in New Mexico to live. This separation is according to our custom equivalent to what the white people call divorce, and so she married again soon after she got to Mescalero. She also kept our two small children, which she had a right to do. The children, Lenna and Robbie, are still living at Mescalero, New Mexico. Lenna is married. I kept one wife, but she is dead now and I have only our daughter Eva with me. Since my separation from Lenna’s mother I have never had more than one wife at a time. Since the death of Eva’s mother I married another woman (December, 1905) but we could not live happily and separated. She went home to her people-that is an Apache divorce.

There is one God looking down on us all. We are all the children of one God. The sun, the darkness, the wind are all listening to what we have to say. ~Geronimo

Then, as now, Mr. George Wratton superintended the Indians. He has always had trouble with the Indians, because he has mistreated them. One day an Indian, while drunk, stabbed Mr. Wratton with a little knife. The officer in charge took the part of Mr. Wratton and the Indian was sent to prison.

When we first came to Fort Sill, Captain Scot was in charge, and he had houses built for us by the Government. We were also given, from the Government, cattle, hogs, turkeys and chickens. The Indians did not do much good with the hogs. because they did not understand how to care for them, and not many Indians even at the present time keep hogs. We did better with the turkeys and chickens, but with these we did not have as good luck as white men do. With the cattle we have done very well indeed, and we like to raise them. We have a few horses also, and have had no bad luck with them.

In the matter of selling our stock and grain there has been much misunderstanding. The Indians understood that the cattle were to be sold and the money given to them, but instead part of the money is given to the Indians and part of it is placed in what the officers call the “Apache Fund.” We have had five different officers in charge of the Indians here and they have all ruled very much alike-not consulting the Apaches or even explaining to them. It may be that the Government ordered the officers in charge to put this cattle money into an Apache fund, for once I complained and told Lieutenant Purington that I intended to report to the Government that he had taken some of my part of the cattle money and put it into the Apache Fund, he said he did not care if I did tell.

Several years ago the issue of clothing ceased. This, too, may have been by the order of the Government, but the Apaches do not understand it.

If there is an Apache Fund, it should some day be turned over to the Indians, or at least they should have an account of it, for it is their earnings.

Fort Sill, OK – Geronimo’s Grave

When General Miles last visited Fort Sill I asked to be relieved from labor on account of my age. I also remembered what General Miles had promised me in the treaty and told him of it. He said I need not work any more except when I wished to, and since that time I have not been detailed to do any work. I have worked a great deal, however, since then, for, although I am old, I like to work and help my people as much as I am able.


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