OF WHOM was it said, "Crueller features were never cut"? Yet, who was known for his outstanding courage and determination? He was the last Apache leader to surrender to the U.S. Army. He lived to be about 80 years of age and died in 1909 in Oklahoma, supposedly a Dutch Reformed Christian. He was Goyathlay (pronounced Goyahkla), better known as Geronimo, the last great Apache leader is said that he came to be called Geronimo after Mexican soldiers cried out in fear to "Saint" Jerome (Jerónimo) when Goyathlay attacked them. About the year 1850, Mexican troops killed 25 Apache women and children who were camped on the outskirts of Janos, Mexico. Among them were Geronimo.'s mother, his young wife, and his three children. It is said that "for the rest of his life Geronimo hated all Mexicans." Spurred by a desire for revenge, he became one of the most feared Apache chiefs.
But what do we know about the Apache Indians, featured so often as the villains in Hollywood stereotypes? Do they still exist? If so, how do they live and what future do they face?The Apache(their name apparently comes from the Zuni word apachu, which means "enemy") were known as fearless and resourceful warriors. Famous 19th-century Indian fighter General George Crook called them "the tigers of the human species." Yet, one authority says that "at no time after 1500 did all the Apache tribes together exceed six thousand people." But a few dozen warriors could tie up a whole enemy army in guerrilla warfare!
However, an Apache source states: "In contrast to the popular conceptions created by the Spanish, Mexicans, and Americans, Apaches were not war-like bloodthirsty savages. We raided for food only during times of shortage. Wars were waged not as random acts, but were generally well planned campaigns for revenge against injustices against us." And of those injustices, there were plenty!
An exhibit at the San Carlos Apache Cultural Center, in Peridot, Arizona, explains Apache history from their viewpoint: "The arrival of outsiders into the region brought hostilities and change. The newcomers had little regard for our aboriginal ties to the land. In an effort to protect our traditions and culture, our ancestors fought and won many battles against the soldiers and citizens of Spain, Mexico, and the United States. But overwhelmed by superior numbers and modern technology, our grandfathers and great-grandfathers were forced to finally accept the demands of the U.S. Government. We were forced to give up our life of the wind and live on reservations." The phrase 'forced to live on reservations' evokes deep feeling for about half a million reservation dwellers (out of over two million Native Americans) in the 554 tribes in the United States and the 633 bands across Canada. The Apache number about 50,00
|Most experts on early Native American history accept the theory that the original tribes came from Asia by way of the Bering Strait and then slowly spread southward and eastward. Linguists relate the Apache language to that of the Athapaskan-speaking peoples of Alaska and Canada. Thomas Mails writes: "Their time of arrival in the American Southwest is placed by current estimates at between A.D. 1000 and 1500. The exact route they followed and the pace of their migration has not yet been agreed upon by anthropologists."—The People Called Apache.|
In earlier centuries the Apache often survived by organizing raiding parties against their Spanish-Mexican neighbors. Thomas Mails writes: "Such raids continued for almost two hundred years, beginning about 1690 and lasting until about 1870. The raids are not surprising, for Mexico proved to be a veritable cornucopia of needed supplies."