"I was born on the prairies where the wind blew free and there was nothing to break the light of the sun.  I was born where there were no enclosures."


He was born Goyaate, "one who yawns" in the late 1820s.  His Mescalero Chiricahua were plagued first by Mexican incursions then by the ever-expanding U.S. It was during a supposedly peaceful interlude that he returned from a trading trip to find that his mother, wife and children had been killed by Mexican raiders.

Devastated, he went into the wilderness to grieve.  It is said that he heard a voice saying " No gun will ever kill you.  I will take the bullets from the guns of the Mexicans. And I will guide your arrows."  Sometime later he ignored a hail of Mexican bullets and carried on fighting with knives and this marked the origin of the name Geronimo, although its derivation is uncertain; the Mexicans could have been calling on St Jerome to help them.

He was captured and sent to the San Carlos reservation in 1877 but escaped in 1881 and became renowned for his exploits, with many legends developing about his ability to disappear mysteriously.  At one point as many as 5000 troops were trying to hunt him down.

He eventually surrendered at Skeleton Canyon in 1886.  He spent the rest of his life on reservations although he was allowed to meet President Roosevelt. He asked for the Apache to be allowed to return to their own lands but to no avail.


In 1909 he fell from his horse at night and was not found until the following day, by which time he had succumbed to pneumonia.

His last words, spoken to his nephew, are said to have been "I should have never surrendered.  I should have fought until I was the last man alive."

His grave marker is at Fort Sill in Oklahoma, although there are rumours that his body may not be there.

Sources and reading:  


Geronimo's own story of his life: