~ Geronimo ~

~ Apache Shaman ~






Born 1829....Died February 17, 1909

Cause of Death: Pneumonia


"....sometimes we prayed in silence, sometimes each prayed aloud, sometimes an aged person prayed for all of us. At other times one would rise and speak to us of our duties to each other and to Usen. Our services were short."

"We were reckless of our lives, because we felt that every man's hand was against us ... so we gave no quarter to anyone and asked no favors.


Despite the turbulence associated with his last days as a warrior, his early life was tranquil. To his birthplace Geronimo gave the apache name of No-doyon Canyon and located it near the headwaters of the Gila River in what is now southeastern Arizona, then a part of Mexico. Born in the mid 1820's, he was given the name Goyahkla, with the generally accepted meaning "One Who Yawns". It was as an adult he became known by the Mexicans as Geronimo. His father was Taklishim "The Gray One", the son of Chief Mahko of the Bedonkohe Apache tribe. His mother, although a full blooded Apache, had the Spanish name Juana. He was the grandson of Chief Mahko of the Nedni Apache.

When Goyahkla's father married and joined Juana"s tribe, he forfeited his hereditary right as leader and opened the way for Mangas Coloradas to become chief. 

When Goyahkla was an adolescent, his father died. Goyathlya took his mother to live with his relatives among a band of Nedni that would later be led by his friend Juh.

Goyathlay performed four novice raids and completed other required activities to gain admittance to the council of warriors when he was 17. Soon afterward he married Alope, who bore him three children.

At Janos, Goyahkla's entire family, including his wife, three children, and mother, were slain during an 1850 massacre by Mexican soldiers while the Apache men were absent from their camp in Chihuahua, Mexico. Stunned by his loss, Goyathlay sought vengeance. "My feelings toward the Mexicans did not change - I still hated them and longed for revenge. I never ceased to plan for their punishment." 

At this point, Goyahkla, previously known as more of a medicine man than a fighter, gained prominence as a resourceful and merciless warrior. The following year, he led a charge against Mexicans who began to scream, “Geronimo!” They were appealing to their patron saint, Jerome, or Geronimo in Spanish. Goyathlay's warriors soon picked up the cry and vanquished the Mexican army. Overcome with jubilation, the warriors bestowed the name of Geronimo on their fearless leader. The name Geronimo would soon become infamous throughout the southwest.

Contrary to popular belief, Geronimo was not a chief. He led war parties numbering as few as three braves into Mexico. Sometimes walking hundreds of miles to steal Mexican horses and cattle. Then, he would ride back to the mountains of Arizona with his booty. He willingly followed the leadership of such great chiefs as Juh, Mangas Coloradas, and Cochise. He was a ceaseless warrior. Although he stood only five feet eight inches tall, he was barrel-chested and possessed seemingly limitless stamina. He took several wives and sired several more children during his life, but he could never abandon the warrior's life for long.

On a privately owned ranch, wagon remains, provision cans, an unmarked grave and an assortment of cartridge cases, among them 1879 dated Spencers, comprise an intriguing discovery cache north on the ranch. Discovered nearby, in tree cover, was a batch of 50 caliber cases, of 1870's Springfield-rifle origin, showing signs of a rare firing-pin misalignment. This was the infamous Geronimo era; he was known to raid in the area and known to possess a 50-caliber Springfield with a misaligned firing pin.




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~ Credit ~
Photos by A.R. Royo

Excepts from Bob Katz

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Updated on June 25, 2005 by Who Else....PurpleHawk