Geronimo (Mescalero-Chiricahua: Goyaałé [kòjàːɬɛ́] "the one who yawns"; June 16, 1829 – February 17, 1909) was a prominent leader from the Bedonkohe band of the Chiricahua Apache tribe. From 1850 to 1886 Geronimo joined with members of three other Chiricahua Apache bands—the Chihenne, the Chokonen and the Nednhi—to carry out numerous raids as well as resistance to US and Mexican military campaigns in the northern Mexico states of Chihuahua and Sonora, and in the southwestern American territories of New Mexico and Arizona. Geronimo's raids and related combat actions were a part of the prolonged period of the Apache-American conflict, that started with American settlement in Apache lands following the end of the war with Mexico in 1848. The Apache-American conflict was itself a direct outgrowth of the much older Apache-Mexican conflict which had been ongoing in the same general area since the beginning of Mexican/Spanish settlement in the 1600s.

During the centuries of Apache-Mexican and Apache-American conflict, raiding had become embedded in the Apache way of life, used not only for strategic purposes but also as an economic enterprise, and often there was overlap between raids for economic need and warfare. Raids ranged from stealing livestock and other plunder, to the capture and/or violent killing of victims, sometimes by torture. Mexicans and Americans responded with retaliation attacks against the Apache which were no less violent, and were often indiscriminate. The raiding and retaliation fed the fires of a virulent revenge warfare that reverberated back and forth between Apaches and Mexicans and later, Apaches and Americans. This was a deadly, brutal and barbaric business for all sides. From 1850 to 1886 Geronimo as well as other Apache leaders conducted raids and carried on revenge warfare, but Geronimo accumulated a record during this time that matched any of his contemporaries, and his fighting ability extending over 30 years form a major characteristic of his persona.

Geronimo was not counted a chief among the Apache. At any one time, only about 30 to 50 Apaches would be numbered among his personal following. However, since he was a superb leader in raiding and revenge warfare he frequently led numbers larger than his own following. Among Geronimo's own Chiricahua tribe many had mixed feelings about him—while respected as a skilled and effective leader of raids or warfare, he emerges as not very likable, and he was not widely popular among the other Apache. Nevertheless, Apache people stood in awe of Geronimo's "powers" which he demonstrated to them on a series of occasions. These powers indicated to other Apaches that Geronimo had super-natural gifts that he could use for good or ill. In eye-witness accounts by other Apaches, Geronimo was able to become aware of distant events as they happened, and he was able to anticipate events that were in the future. He also demonstrated powers to heal other Apaches.

Early in his life, Geronimo became invested in the continuing and relentless cycle of revenge warfare between Apache and Mexican. On March 5, 1851, when Geronimo was in his 20's, a force of Mexican militia from Sonora under Colonel Jose Maria Carrasco attacked and surprised an Apache camp outside of Janos, Chihuahua, slaughtering the inhabitants which included Geronimo's family. Col. Carrasco claimed he had followed the Apaches to Janos, Chihuahua after they had conducted a raid in Sonora, taken livestock and other plunder and badly defeated Mexican militia. Geronimo was absent at the time of the attack on the Apache camp, but when he returned he found that his mother, wife, and his three children were among the dead. In retaliation, Geronimo joined in an extended series of revenge attacks against the Mexicans.[4] This event left Geronimo with a bitter and very personal hatred for Mexicans, and he often killed them indiscriminately and with a special vehemence. Throughout Geronimo's adult life his antipathy, suspicion and dislike for Mexicans was demonstrably greater than for Americans.

During Geronimo's final period of conflict from 1876 to 1886 he "surrendered" three times and accepted life on the Apache reservations in Arizona. Reservation life was confining to the free-moving Apache people, and they resented restrictions on their customary way of life. While Apaches were shielded from the violence of warfare on the reservation, disability and death from diseases like malaria was much more prevalent. On the other hand, rations were provided by the government, though at times the corruption of Indian agents caused rationing to become perilously scarce. Rebelling against reservation life, other Apache leaders had led their bands in "breakouts" from the reservations. On three separate occasions — August, 1878; September, 1881; May, 1885—Geronimo led his band of followers in "breakouts" from the reservation to return to their former nomadic life associated with raiding and warfare. Following each breakout, Geronimo and his band would flee across Arizona and New Mexico to Mexico, killing and plundering as they went, and establish a new base in the rugged and remote Sierra Madre Occidental Mountains. In Mexico, they were insulated from pursuit by U.S. armed forces. The Apache knew the rough terrain of the Sierras intimately, which helped them elude pursuit and protected them from attack. The Sierra Madre mountains lie on the border between the Mexican states of Sonora and Chihuahua, which allowed the Apache access to raid and plunder the small villages, haciendas, wagon trains, worker camps and travelers in both states. From Mexico, Apache bands also staged surprise raids back into the United States, often seeking to replenish his band's supply of guns and ammunition. In these raids into the United States the Apaches moved swiftly and attacked isolated ranches, wagon trains, prospectors, and travelers. During these raids the Apaches often killed all the persons they encountered in order to defer detection and pursuit as long as possible before they slipped back over the border into Mexico.

The "breakouts" and the subsequent resumption of Apache raiding and warfare caused the Mexican Army and militia, as well as United States forces to pursue and attempt to kill or apprehend off-reservation "renegade" Apache bands, including Geronimo's, wherever they could be found. Because the Mexican army and militia units of Sonora and Chihuahua were unable to suppress the several Chiricahua bands based in the Sierra Madre mountains, in 1883 Mexico allowed the United States to send troops into Mexico to continue their pursuit of Geronimo's band and the bands of other Apache leaders. The United States Army operating under the command of General George Crook successfully utilized scout/combat units recruited from among the Apache people and led by American officers. These Apache units proved effective in finding the mountain strongholds of the Apache bands, and killing or capturing them. It was highly unsettling for Geronimo's band to realize their own tribesmen had helped find their hiding places. Over time this persistent pursuit by both Mexican and American forces discouraged Geronimo and other similar Apache leaders, and caused a steady and irreplaceable attrition of the members of their bands, which taken all together eroded their will to resist and led to their ultimate capitulation.

In 1886, after an intense pursuit in Northern Mexico by U.S. forces that followed Geronimo's third 1885 reservation "breakout", Geronimo surrendered for the last time to General Nelson Miles at Skeleton Canyon, just north of the Mexican/American boundary. Miles treated Geronimo as a prisoner of war and acted promptly to remove Geronimo first to Fort Bowie, then to the railroad at Bowie Station, Arizona where he and 27 other Apaches were sent off to join the rest of the Chiricahua tribe which has been previously exiled to Florida. This prompt action prevented the Arizona civil authorities from intervening to arrest and try Geronimo for the death of the many Americans who had been killed during the previous decades of raiding. The Chiricahuas remained at Fort Pickens in Florida until 1888 when they were relocated to Mt. Vernon Barracks in Alabama. In 1894 the Chiricahuas, including Geronimo were relocated at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, where they built villages scattered around the post based on kindred groups. Geronimo, like other Apaches, was given a plot of land on which he took up farming activities.

In 1898 Geronimo was part of a Chiricahua delegation from Fort Sill to The Trans-Mississippi International Exposition in Omaha, Nebraska. Previous newspaper accounts of the Apache Wars had impressed the public with Geronimo's name and exploits, and in Omaha he became a star attraction. The Omaha Exposition launched Geronimo to celebrity status and for the rest of his life, he was in demand as an attraction in fairs large and small. The two largest were The Pan American Exposition at Buffalo, New York, in 1901 and the Louisiana Purchase Exposition at Saint Louis, Missouri in 1904. Geronimo dressed in traditional clothing and posed for photographs and sold his crafts. In President Teddy Roosevelt's 1905 Inaugural Parade Geronimo rode horseback with five other historic Indian Chiefs. They created a sensation and brought the crowds along the parade route to their feet. Later that same week Geronimo met with the President and made a moving request for the Chiricahuas at Fort Sill to be relieved of their status as prisoners of war, and allowed to return to their homeland in Arizona. President Roosevelt refused, referring to the continuing animosity in Arizona for the deaths of civilian men, women and children associated with Geronimo's raids during the prolonged Apache Wars.

Geronimo died at the Fort Sill hospital in 1909. He was still a prisoner of war. He is buried at the Fort Sill Indian Agency Cemetery surrounded by the graves of relatives and other Apache prisoners of war.


Apache is the collective term for several culturally related groups of Native Americans originally from the Southwest United States. The current division of Apachean groups includes the, Western Apache, Chiricahua, Mescalero, Jicarilla, Lipan and Plains Apache (formerly Kiowa-Apache).

Geronimo was born to the Bedonkohe band of the Apache, near Turkey Creek, a tributary of the Gila River in the modern-day state of New Mexico, then part of Mexico, though the Apache disputed Mexico's claim.[3] His grandfather, Mahko, had been chief of the Bedonkohe Apache. He had three brothers and four sisters.

Geronimo's parents raised him according to Apache traditions; after the death of his father, his mother took him to live with the Chihenne and he grew up with them. Geronimo married a woman named Alope from the Nedni-Chiricahua band of Apache when he was 17; they had three children. On March 5, 1851, a company of 400 Mexican soldiers from Sonora led by Colonel José María Carrasco attacked Geronimo's camp outside Janos while the men were in town (known as Kas-Ki-Yeh) trading.[5][6] Among those killed were his wife, children and mother. The loss of his family led Geronimo to hate all Mexicans for the rest of his life; he and his followers would frequently attack and kill any group of Mexicans that they encountered. Recalling that at the time his band was at peace with the Mexicans, Geronimo remembered the incident as follows:

Late one afternoon when returning from town we were met by a few women and children who told us that Mexican troops from some other town had attacked our camp, killed all the warriors of the guard, captured all our ponies, secured our arms, destroyed our supplies, and killed many of our women and children. Quickly we separated, concealing ourselves as best we could until nightfall, when we assembled at our appointed place of rendezvous — a thicket by the river. Silently we stole in one by one, sentinels were placed, and when all were counted, I found that my aged mother, my young wife, and my three small children were among the slain.[7]

Geronimo's chief, Mangas Coloradas, sent him to Cochise's band for help in his revenge against the Mexicans. It was during this incident that the name Geronimo came about. This appellation stemmed from a battle in which, ignoring a deadly hail of bullets, he repeatedly attacked Mexican soldiers with a knife. The origin of the name is a source of controversy with historians, some writing that it was appeals by the soldiers to Saint Jerome ("Jeronimo!") for help. Others source it as the mispronunciation of his name by the Mexican soldiers.[8]:13

Geronimo married Chee-hash-kish and had two children, Chappo and Dohn-say. Then he took another wife, Nana-tha-thtith, with whom he had one child.[9] He later had a wife named Zi-yeh at the same time as another wife, She-gha, one named Shtsha-she and later a wife named Ih-tedda. Geronimo's ninth and last wife was Azul.


Geronimo was raised with the traditional religious views of the Bedonkohe. When questioned about his views on life after death, he wrote in his 1905 autobiography,

As to the future state, the teachings of our tribe were not specific, that is, we had no definite idea of our relations and surroundings in after life. We believed that there is a life after this one, but no one ever told me as to what part of man lived after death ... We held that the discharge of one's duty would make his future life more pleasant, but whether that future life was worse than this life or better, we did not know, and no one was able to tell us. We hoped that in the future life, family and tribal relations would be resumed. In a way we believed this, but we did not know it.:178

In his later years Geronimo embraced Christianity, and stated

Since my life as a prisoner has begun, I have heard the teachings of the white man's religion, and in many respects believe it to be better than the religion of my fathers ... Believing that in a wise way it is good to go to church, and that associating with Christians would improve my character, I have adopted the Christian religion. I believe that the church has helped me much during the short time I have been a member. I am not ashamed to be a Christian, and I am glad to know that the President of the United States is a Christian, for without the help of the Almighty I do not think he could rightly judge in ruling so many people. I have advised all of my people who are not Christians, to study that religion, because it seems to me the best religion in enabling one to live right.:181

He joined the Dutch Reformed Church in 1903, but four years later was expelled for gambling.:181 To the end of his life, he seemed to harbor ambivalent religious feelings, telling the Christian missionaries at a summer camp meeting in 1908 that he wanted to start over, while at the same time telling his tribesmen that he held to the old Apache religion.[8]:437–438

Life after the massacre at Kas-Ki-Yeh

The first Apache raids on Sonora and Chihuahua took place during the late 17th century. To counter the early Apache raids on Spanish settlements, presidios were established at Janos (1685) in Chihuahua and at Fronteras (1690) in northern Opata country. In 1835, Mexico had placed a bounty on Apache scalps. Two years later, Mangas Coloradas became principal chief and war leader and began a series of retaliatory raids against the Mexicans. Apache raids on Mexican villages were so numerous and brutal that no area was safe.[11] Between 1820 and 1835 alone, some 5000 Mexicans died in Apache raids, and 100 settlements were destroyed.[12] As war chief, Geronimo was notorious for urging raids and war on Mexican Provinces and later against American locations in the southwest.

Attacks and counter-attacks were common. In December 1860, 30 miners launched a surprise attack on an encampment of Bedonkohes Apaches on the west bank of the Mimbres River. According to historian Edwin R. Sweeney, the miners "...killed four Indians, wounded others, and captured thirteen women and children." Retaliation by the Apache again followed, with raids against U.S. citizens and property.[13]

According to National Geographic, "the governor of Sonora claimed in 1886 that in the last five months of Geronimo's wild career, his band of 16 warriors slaughtered some 500 to 600 Mexicans."[13]

I have killed many Mexicans; I do not know how many, for frequently I did not count them. Some of them were not worth counting. It has been a long time since then, but still I have no love for the Mexicans. With me they were always treacherous and malicious.

— Geronimo, My Life: The Autobiography of Geronimo, 1905.

Massacre at Casa Grande

In 1873 the Mexicans once again attacked the Apache.[14] After months of fighting in the mountains, the Apaches and Mexicans decided on a peace treaty at Casa Grande.[14] After terms were agreed, the Mexican troops gave mescal to the Apaches and, while they were intoxicated, they attacked and killed 20 Apaches and captured many more.[14] The Apache were forced to retreat into the mountains once again.[14]

Though outnumbered, Geronimo fought against both Mexican and United States troops and became famous for his daring exploits and numerous escapes from capture from 1858 to 1886.[15] One such escape, as legend has it, took place in the Robledo Mountains of southwest New Mexico. The legend states that Geronimo and his followers entered a cave, and the U.S. soldiers waited outside the entrance for him, but he never came out. Later, it was heard that Geronimo was spotted outside, nearby. The second entrance through which he escaped has yet to be found and the cave is still called Geronimo's Cave, even though no reference to this event or this cave has been found in the historic or oral record. Moreover, there are many stories of this type with other caves referenced that state that Geronimo or other Apaches entered to escape troops, but were not seen exiting. These stories are in all likelihood apocryphal.[13]

After about a year some trouble arose between them and the Indians, and I took the war path as a warrior, not as a chief. I had not been wronged, but some of my people had been, and I fought with my tribe; for the soldiers and not the Indians were at fault.

— Geronimo, Geronimo's story of his life, Coming of the White Men, 1909

At the end of his military career, he led a small band of 38 men, women, and children. They evaded thousands of Mexican and American troops for over a year, making him the most famous Native American of the time and earning him the title of the "worst Indian who ever lived" among white settlers.[16] According to James L. Haley, "About two weeks after the escape there was a report of a family massacred near Silver City; one girl was taken alive and hanged from a meat hook jammed under the base of her skull."[17] His band was one of the last major forces of independent Native American warriors who refused to accept the United States occupation of the American West.

Geronimo Campaign

On May 17, 1885, a number of Apache including Mangus (son of Mangus Colorado), Chihuahua, Nachite, Geronimo, and their followers fled the San Carlos Reservation in Arizona. The people, who had lived as semi-nomads for generations, disliked the restrictive reservation system. Department of Arizona General George Crook dispatched two columns of troops into Mexico, the first commanded by Captain Emmet Crawford and the second by Captain Wirt Davis. Each was composed of a troop of cavalry (usually about forty men) and about 100 Apache scouts. They pursued the Apache through the summer and fall through Mexican Chihuahua and back across the border into the United States. The Apache continually raided settlements, killing other Native Americans and civilians and stealing horses.[18]

Crook was under increased pressure from the government in Washington. He launched a second expedition into Mexico and on January 9, 1886, Crawford located the Chiricahua. His Indian scouts attacked the next morning and captured the Apache's herd of horses and their camp equipment. The Apaches were demoralized and agreed to negotiate for surrender. Before the negotiations could be concluded, Mexican troops arrived and mistook the Apache scouts for the enemy Apache. They attacked and killed Captain Crawford. Lt. Maus, the senior officer, met with the Chiricahua Apache, who agreed to meet with General Crook. Geronimo named as the meeting place the Cañon de los Embudos (Canyon of the Funnels), in the Sierra Madre Mountains about 86 miles (138 km) from Fort Bowie and about 20 miles (32 km) south of the international border, near the Sonora/Chihuahua border.[18]

During the three days of negotiations, photographer C. S. Fly took about 15 exposures of the Apache on 8 by 10 inches (200 by 250 mm) glass negatives.[20] One of the pictures of Geronimo with two of his sons standing alongside was made at Geronimo's request. Fly's images are the only existing photographs of Geronimo's surrender.[19] His photos of Geronimo and the other free Apaches, taken on March 25 and 26th, are the only known photographs taken of an American Indian while still at war with the United States.[19]

Geronimo, camped on the Mexican side of the border, agreed to Crook's surrender terms. That night, a soldier who sold them whiskey said that his band would be murdered as soon as they crossed the border. Geronimo, Nachite, and 39 of his followers slipped away during the night. Crook exchanged a series of heated telegrams with General Philip Sheridan defending his men's actions, until on April 1, 1886, he sent a telegram asking Sheridan to relieve him of command, which Sheridan was all too willing to do.[20]

Sheridan replaced Crook with General Nelson A. Miles. In 1886, General Miles selected Captain Henry Lawton to command B Troop, 4th Cavalry, at Fort Huachuca, and First Lieutenant Charles B. Gatewood, to lead the expedition that brought Geronimo and his followers back to the reservation system for a final time. Lawton was given orders to head up actions south of the U.S.–Mexico boundary, where it was thought that Geronimo and a small band of his followers would take refuge from U.S. authorities. Lawton was to pursue, subdue, and return Geronimo to the U.S., dead or alive.

Lawton's official report dated September 9, 1886 sums up the actions of his unit and gives credit to a number of his troopers for their efforts. Geronimo gave Gatewood credit for his decision to surrender as Gatewood was well known to Geronimo, spoke some Apache, and was familiar with and honored their traditions and values. He acknowledged Lawton's tenacity for wearing the Apaches down with constant pursuit. Geronimo and his followers had little or no time to rest or stay in one place. Completely worn out, the little band of Apaches returned to the U.S. with Lawton and officially surrendered to General Miles on September 4, 1886 at Skeleton Canyon, Arizona.[4]

General Crook said to me, "Why did you leave the reservation?" I said: "You told me that I might live in the reservation the same as white people lived. One year I raised a crop of corn, and gathered and stored it, and the next year I put in a crop of oats, and when the crop was almost ready to harvest, you told your soldiers to put me in prison, and if I resisted to kill me. If I had been let alone l would now have been in good circumstances, but instead of that you and the Mexicans are hunting me with soldiers".

— Geronimo, Geronimo's story of his life, In Prison and on the war path, 1909

When Geronimo surrendered, he had in his possession a Winchester Model 1876 lever-action rifle with a silver-washed barrel and receiver, bearing Serial Number 109450. It is on display at the United States Military Academy, West Point, New York. Additionally, he had a Colt Single Action Army revolver with a nickel finish and ivory stocks bearing the serial number 89524, and a Sheffield Bowie knife with a dagger type blade and a stag handle made by George Wostenholm in an elaborate silver-studded holster and cartridge belt. The revolver, rig, and knife are on display at the Fort Sill museum.[13]

The Indians always tried to live peaceably with the white soldiers and settlers. One day during the time that the soldiers were stationed at Apache Pass I made a treaty with the post. This was done by shaking hands and promising to be brothers. Cochise and Mangus-Colorado did likewise. I do not know the name of the officer in command, but this was the first regiment that ever came to Apache Pass. This treaty was made about a year before we were attacked in a tent, as above related. In a few days after the attack at Apache Pass we organized in the mountains and returned to fight the soldiers.

— Geronimo, Geronimo's story of his life, Coming of the White Men, 1909

The debate remains as to whether Geronimo surrendered unconditionally. He pleaded in his memoirs that his people who surrendered had been misled, and that his surrender as a war prisoner in front of uncontested witnesses (especially General Stanley) was conditional. General Oliver O. Howard, chief of US Army Division of the Pacific, said on his part that Geronimo's surrender was accepted as that of a dangerous outlaw without condition. Howard's account was contested in front of the US Senate.

Prisoner of war

Geronimo and other Apaches, including the Apache scouts who had helped the army track him down, were sent as prisoners to Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio Texas. The Army held them there for about six weeks before they were sent to Fort Pickens, in Pensacola, Florida, and his family was sent to Fort Marion.[21] They were reunited in May 1887, when they were transferred to Mount Vernon Barracks near Mobile, Alabama for seven years. In October, 1893, they were moved to Fort Sill, Oklahoma. On the train ride to Fort Sill, many tourists wanted a "piece" of Geronimo so they paid 25 cents for a button that he cut off his shirt or a hat he took off his head. As the train would pull into depots along the way, Geronimo would buy more buttons to sew on and more hats to sell.

In his old age, Geronimo became a celebrity. He appeared at fairs, including the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis, where he reportedly rode a ferris wheel and sold souvenirs and photographs of himself. However, he was not allowed to return to the land of his birth. He rode in President Theodore Roosevelt's 1905 inaugural parade.

In 1905, Geronimo agreed to tell his story to S. M. Barrett, Superintendent of Education in Lawton, Oklahoma. Barrett had to appeal to President Roosevelt to gain permission to publish the book. Geronimo came to each interview knowing exactly what he wanted to say. He refused to answer questions or alter his narrative. Barrett did not seem to take many liberties with Geronimo's story as translated by Asa Daklugie. Frederick Turner re-edited this autobiography by removing some of Barrett's footnotes and writing an introduction for the non-Apache readers. Turner notes the book is in the style of an Apache reciting part of his oral history.[22]

When I was at first asked to attend the St. Louis World's Fair I did not wish to go. Later, when I was told that I would receive good attention and protection, and that the President of the United States said that it would be all right, I consented ... Every Sunday the President of the Fair sent for me to go to a wild west show. I took part in the roping contests before the audience. There were many other Indian tribes there, and strange people of whom I had never heard ... I am glad I went to the Fair. I saw many interesting things and learned much of the white people. They are a very kind and peaceful people. During all the time I was at the Fair no one tried to harm me in any way. Had this been among the Mexicans I am sure I should have been compelled to defend myself often.

— Geronimo, Geronimo's story of his life, At the World's Fair, 1909.


In February 1909, Geronimo was thrown from his horse while riding home, and had to lie in the cold all night before a friend found him extremely ill.[16] He died of pneumonia on February 17, 1909, as a prisoner of the United States at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.[23] On his deathbed, he confessed to his nephew that he regretted his decision to surrender.[16] 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."[24] He was buried at Fort Sill, Oklahoma in the Apache Indian Prisoner of War Cemetery.

Alleged theft of Geronimo's skull

Six members of the Yale secret society Skull and Bones, including Prescott Bush, served as Army volunteers at Fort Sill during World War I.[25]

In 1986, former San Carlos Apache chairman Ned Anderson received an anonymous letter with a photograph and a copy of a log book claiming that Skull and Bones held the skull. He met with Skull and Bones officials about the rumor; the group's attorney, Endicott P. Davidson, denied that the group held the skull, and said that the 1918 ledger saying otherwise was a hoax.[27] The group offered Anderson a glass case containing what appeared to be the skull of a child, but Anderson refused it.[28] In 2006, Marc Wortman discovered a 1918 letter from Skull & Bones member Winter Mead to F. Trubee Davison that claimed the theft:[29]

The skull of the worthy Geronimo the Terrible, exhumed from its tomb at Fort Sill by your club... is now safe inside the tomb and bone together with his well worn femurs, bit and saddle horn.

— [29]

The second "tomb" references the building of Yale University's Skull and Bones society. But Mead was not at Fort Sill, and Cameron University history professor David H. Miller notes that Geronimo's grave was unmarked at the time.[29] The revelation led Harlyn Geronimo of Mescalero, New Mexico, to write to President George W. Bush (the grandson of Prescott Bush) requesting his help in returning the remains:

According to our traditions the remains of this sort, especially in this state when the grave was desecrated ... need to be reburied with the proper rituals ... to return the dignity and let his spirits rest in peace.

— [30]

In 2009, Ramsey Clark filed a lawsuit on behalf of people claiming descent from Geronimo, against several parties, including Robert Gates and Skull and Bones, asking for the return of Geronimo's bones.[27] An article in The New York Times states that Clark "acknowledged he had no hard proof that the story was true."[31] Investigators, including Bush family biographer Kitty Kelley and the pseudonymous Cecil Adams, say the story is untrue. A military spokesman from Fort Sill told Adams, "There is no evidence to indicate the bones are anywhere but in the grave site." Jeff Houser, chairman of the Fort Sill Apache tribe of Oklahoma, calls the story a hoax.[28]

Military usage


Thanks to a 1939 movie about Geronimo, US paratroopers traditionally shout "Geronimo" to show they have no fear of jumping out of an airplane. Other Native American-based traditions were also adopted in WWII, such as "Mohawk" haircuts, face paint and spears on their unit patches.[32]

Code name

The United States military used the code name "Geronimo" for the raid that killed the al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden in 2011; but its use outraged some Native Americans.[33] It was subsequently reported to be named or renamed "Operation Neptune['s] Spear".[34][35]

Harlyn Geronimo, Geronimo's great-grandson, said to the Senate Commission on Indian Affairs,[37]

(use of 'Geronimo' in the raid that killed Bin Laden) either was an outrageous insult (or) mistake. And it is clear from the military records released that the name Geronimo was used at times by military personnel involved for both the military operation and for Osama Bin Laden himself.

In popular culture

  • Three towns in the U.S.-one in Arizona, one in Texas, and one in Oklahoma-are named for him.
  • A WWII Liberty ship was named for him.
  • In the USPS serial "Legends of the West", a 29¢ postage stamp showing Geronimo was issued on October 18, 1994.[38]



Television & Radio

  • 1938: On June 29, a fictionalized Geronimo appeared in a radio episode of The Lone Ranger, titled "Three Against Geronimo." In the episode, Tonto acts as a spy to discover Geronimo's plan to take Fort Custer under a false flag of peace. Tonto strips Geronimo of his concealed knife before the Lone Ranger and a cavalryman named Peterson lure Geronimo's troops into the emptied fort one at a time. The episode proclaims this as Geronimo's final defeat.
  • 1955: In an episode of Buffalo Bill, Jr. titled "Fight for Geronimo," outlaws attempt to seize a fictionalized Geronimo from the custody of the U.S. Army and then seek a reward for his capture.
  • 1959: In an episode of the ABC/Desilu Western series The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp titled "Young Geronimo," a fictionalized Wyatt Earp befriends a fictionalized Geronimo when the Apache are falsely accused of rustling cattle from Newman Haynes Clanton, head of the Clanton Gang. Geronimo is played by Michael Carr.[41]
  • 1968: In an episode of The High Chaparral titled "Ten Little Indians", the fictional grandson of Geronimo puts the High Chaparral ranch in danger.[42]
  • 2014: In the Falling Skies season 4 episode "Exodus," Tom Mason refers to Geronimo and his ambush tactic when explaining a daring plan to escape from an alien ghetto.