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Geronimo, the P.O.W.

Goyahkla was an everyday Apache tribesman until the day he returned from a trading expedition in 1858 and found that Mexican soldiers had killed his mother, wife, and three children -as well as all the other women and children in his tribe. That's when he became Geronimo, the fearsome warrior who vowed to kill as many white men as he could. In 1886, outmanned and pursued mercilessly, Geronimo surrendered to the U.S. Army. It was a negotiated surrender in which he was told he would be held for two years. From that day until he died in 1909, Geronimo was in federal custody. That didn't mean he spent the rest of his life in prison, though -he was exhibited at the World's Fair and worked for a Wild West show, but was always under Army supervision. But all Geronimo wanted to do was go home to Arizona.

In March 1905, Geronimo was invited to President Theodore Roosevelt’s inaugural parade; he and five real Indian chiefs, who wore full headgear and painted faces, rode horses down Pennsylvania Avenue. The intent, one newspaper stated, was to show Americans “that they have buried the hatchet forever.”

After the parade, Geronimo met with Roosevelt in what the New York Tribune reported was a “pathetic appeal” to allow him to return to Arizona. “Take the ropes from our hands,” Geronimo begged, with tears “running down his bullet-scarred cheeks.” Through an interpreter, Roosevelt told Geronimo that the Indian had a “bad heart.”  “You killed many of my people; you burned villages…and were not good Indians.”  The president would have to wait a while “and see how you and your people act” on their reservation.

Read the entire story of Geronimo's punishment at Past Imperfect. Link


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