[Marxism] Geronimo's descendants visit site of warrior's surrender
hunterbadbear at earthlink.net
Tue Mar 16 18:10:51 MST 2004
Note by Hunter Bear:
American Indian armed resistance -- especially in the Southwest -- continued
long after Geronimo "surrendered." Scattered Apaches -- e.g., the legendary
"Apache kid" -- continued to fight on. American paranoia regarding "Indian
uprisings" -- obviously grounded on guilt -- hung on for generations and
still does to some extent. The slaughter of peaceful Big Foot's band at
Wounded Knee Creek in South Dakota, late 1890, would be a case in point --
as well as the Feds periodically sending heavy military detachments into
Navajo as late as the 1920s.
Some members of Geronimo's band never considered surrender and moved into
Mexico, taking up residence in the Sierra Madre Occidental. In that
setting, they were relatively safe -- the only nearby Anglo Americans being
Confederate refugees who, swearing they would never submit to tyranny, had
moved into the same setting following Appomattox.
About the time I was hatching, the Apaches of the Sierra Madre came north,
crossed into Arizona, and burned three towns before returning to their
Mexican refuge. The governors of Arizona, New Mexico, and California all
called up their National Guard units. Not since the hey-day of the
Wobblies. . .
Geronimo's descendants visit site of warrior's surrender
Mar. 15, 2004 08:00 AM
APACHE - A jumbled pile of rocks under some mesquite bushes in Skeleton
Canyon just west of the New Mexico border is all that marks the spot where
the Indian Wars formally came to an end in 1886.
A short drive across the Arizona border about 20 miles southwest of Rodeo,
on a private ranch surrounded by the Peloncillo Mountains, is the spot where
the Chiricahua Apache warrior Geronimo surrendered to Gen. Nelson Miles on
Sept. 4, 1886.
History came alive during a recent visit to the site led by former Hidalgo
County Sheriff Bill Cavaliere, a history buff who began leading tours to the
site 12 years ago.
The special guest on the tour was the warrior's great-grandson, Harlyn
Geronimo, a former Mescalero Tribal Council member and a current tribal
school board member, making his first visit to the site.
"This is freedom he was fighting for. How would you feel if someone moved
into your backyard and said, 'This is ours'? You'd all be up in arms,"
Harlyn Geronimo told a group of visitors for the once-a-year guided tour.
"He was fighting for his land, for his people," Harlyn Geronimo said.
The legacy of Geronimo's final surrender still reverberates in Indian
The Mescalero Apache Tribal Council is expected this month to consider
petitioning Congress for restitution for the 27 years that Chiricahua
Apaches spent as prisoners of war before their release in 1913.
When he surrendered, Geronimo, then in his 60s, and his band - the last
holdouts of an era when all other Indian tribes had been subjugated or
consigned to reservations - numbered no more than 22 men and 15 women and
They had been doggedly pursued by 5,000 U.S. soldiers, about a fourth of the
nation's Army at the time.
"It was better to surrender than to have the whole tribe wiped out," Harlyn
But the federal government singled out the Chiricahua for uniquely harsh
treatment by removing the entire tribe from its homeland in southeastern
Arizona and southwestern New Mexico.
In 1886, the U.S. government shipped 498 Chiricahua POWs, including
Geronimo's band and others living on reservations in Arizona, by railroad
cars to Fort Pickens in St. Augustine, Fla. The tribe was subsequently moved
to the Mount Vernon barracks in Alabama, then to Fort Sill, Okla., where
they spent the last 19 years of their imprisonment.
Of those POWs, many of whose descendants live today at Mescalero, 399 were
women and children.
Within 3 1/2 years, 119 had died, many from tuberculosis. By the time of the
tribe's release, most of the survivors had been born as prisoners.
"Our people, out of all the tribes in the U.S., were pretty much the only
ones treated in this manner," said Michael Darrow, tribal historian for the
Fort Sill Apache.
When the tribe was released in 1913, four years after Geronimo's death at
Fort Sill, only 265 remained.
"Today, the government's policy would be called an especially brutal form of
ethnic cleansing," wrote Washington, D.C., attorney John Racin in a proposal
to represent the Chiricahua from Fort Sill and Mescalero in a POW claim.
The U.S. government gave Chiricahua the option of remaining in Oklahoma or
joining the Mescalero Apaches in the Sacramento Mountains closer to, but not
the same as, their ancestral homelands.
About 187 of the remaining Chiricahua moved to the mountains with the
Mescalero Apaches in April 1913, while the rest remained in Oklahoma.
There are at least three POW-born elders - one in Mescalero, two in
Oklahoma - who survive, Apaches say.
"My mother was born on the Fort Sill military post, and she came to
Mescalero in a cradleboard," said Mescalero resident Claudine Saenz,
referring to her mother, Evelyn Gaines, whose age is estimated at 92.
"The majority of them (Chiricahuas) came here at the invitation of the
Mescalero people. So we are a displaced tribe. We have no homeland."
The idea for compensating tribal members for the POW experience, said
Mescalero Apache tribal attorney John Wheeler, first arose in the late
1980s, when Congress passed a law formally apologizing to Japanese Americans
for their internment in camps during World War II. Internees or their heirs
were also provided compensation of $20,000 each.
Saenz said her Chiricahua ancestors had to endure enormous hardships and
humiliation, not least of which was being far from their homeland.
"I imagine their spirit was broken at some point, but they survived," Saenz
said. "They survived and they maintained the language, they maintained the
culture, and we didn't lose any of that."
Standing at the surrender site, Naa-teh Luunnaa, a Korean War veteran
visiting from the White Mountain Apache reservation in Arizona, said: "I've
always wanted to come here all my life to the site where Goyahkla
(Geronimo's Apache name) turned himself in to save his people."
Luunnaa said the site, in the Apaches' harsh desert homeland, was like a
No sign marks the spot.
After praying quietly and smudging one of the rocks at the site with corn
pollen, Luunnaa said he recited a "prayer for the people who were there, to
heal them because they went through a lot."
HUNTER GRAY [HUNTER BEAR]
In our Gray Hole, the ghosts often dance in the junipers and sage, on the
game trails, in the tributary canyons with the thick red maples, and on the
high windy ridges -- and they dance from within the very essence of our own
inner being. They do this especially when the bright night moon shines down
on the clean white snow that covers the valley and its surroundings. Then
it is as bright as day -- but in an always soft and mysterious and
remembering way. [Hunter Bear]
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