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 Arizona, then part of Mexico, though the Apache disputed Mexico’s claim.
His grandfather (Mahko) had been chief of the Bedonkohe Apache.
He had three brothers and four sisters.
Geronimo was a prominent leader of the Bedonkohe Apache who fought against Mexico and Texas for their expansion into Apache tribal lands for several decades during the Apache Wars.
“Geronimo” was the name given to him during a battle with Mexican soldiers.
At an old age, he became a celebrity, appearing at fairs, but he was never allowed to return to the land of his birth.
He was reportedly given the name Geronimo by Mexican soldiers, although few agree as to why.
As leader of the Apaches at Arispe in Sonora, he performed such daring feats that the Mexicans singled him out with the sobriquet Geronimo (Spanish for “Jerome”).
Some attributed his numerous raiding successes to powers conferred by supernatural beings, including a reputed invulnerability to bullets.
Geronimo was the leader of the last American Indian fighting force formally to capitulate to the United States.
Because he fought against such daunting odds and held out the longest, he became the most famous Apache of all.
To the pioneers and settlers of Arizona and New Mexico, he was a bloody-handed murderer and this image endured until the second half of this century.
In 1875 all Apaches west of the Rio Grande were ordered to the San Carlos Reservation.
Geronimo escaped from the reservation three times and although he surrendered, he always managed to avoid capture.
In 1876, the U.S. Army tried to move the Chiricahuas onto a reservation, but Geronimo fled to Mexico eluding the troops for over a decade.
Sensationalized press reports exaggerated Geronimo’s activities, making him the most feared and infamous Apache.
The last few months of the campaign required over 5,000 soldiers, one-quarter of the entire Army, and 500 scouts, and perhaps up to 3,000 Mexican soldiers to track down Geronimo and his band.
His final surrender to Gen. Nelson Miles in Skeleton Canyon, Arizona, just north of the Mexican border, on September 4, 1886, truly marked the end of a chapter in Apache and western American history.
It meant exile for himself and almost four hundred of his fellows.
They were sent by train to incarceration at Fort Pickens, Florida; Mount Vernon Barracks, Alabama; and finally, in 1894, Fort Sill, near Lawton, Oklahoma.
Geronimo spent more than fourteen years at Fort Sill, although he was allowed sporadically to appear at world’s fairs and other gatherings.
When Geronimo died, he had been a legend for more than a generation. But his courage and determination did more than provide a battle cry for paratroopers of another day.
It helped sustain the spirits of his people, the Chiricahua Apaches, in the last desperate days of the Indian wars. Still highly regarded as a leader by his people, Geronimo engaged in farming at Fort Sill.
His fame grew, and he appeared at national events such as the 1898 Trans-Mississippi and International Exposition in Omaha, the 1901 Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, and the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis.