VIEWS: 5 PAGES: 8 POSTED ON: 1/12/2012
By Ann Haver-Allen I am not Apache, but an Apache warrior has been honored and respected by my family for as long as I can remember. My mother’s family is Creek and Cherokee, which means I am, although my father was Irish. My great-grandparents were from northern Alabama. They ended up in northwestern Florida thanks to Andrew Jackson’s questionable “treaty” with the Cherokees, which he signed and pushed through Congress in 1836. It was Jackson’s successor Martin Van Buren, however, who actually ordered the forced removal of Cherokees from Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina and Tennessee. In May 1838 about 17,000 Cherokees—along with approximately 2,000 black slaves owned by wealthy Cherokees—were removed at gunpoint from their homes over three weeks and gathered together in camps, often with only the clothes on their backs. This was the federal government’s first “gathering” of Cherokees ordered to walk almost 2,000 miles to Oklahoma. Estimates put deaths at between 4,000 and 8,000. This forced relocation march became known as the Trail of Tears. My great-grandparents decided not to cooperate with the federal government and instead fled south. I grew up in the panhandle of Florida, about an hour northwest of Pensacola. We literally lived in the woods and it was a big event to go down to Pensacola on Sunday afternoons after church. It was on one of these trips that I learned of Geronimo. How the Apaches ended up in Pensacola is a tale of broken promises and local business enterprise. Geronimo had surrendered in Arizona to Brigadier General Nelson A. Miles upon the conditions that they would not be harmed, that they would be able to rejoin their families, which had been sent to Ft. Marion in St. Augustine, Fla., and that after two years in exile they would be given a reservation somewhere outside of Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. Miles said the Apaches would be forgiven for past crimes and allowed to start a new life. Almost immediately following their surrender, Miles put Geronimo and his band on a train headed to Florida. Only problem, President Grover Cleveland intervened and said Miles did not have permission to negotiate surrender terms, so the train was stopped and held in San Antonio until the government could figure out what to do with Geronimo. President Cleveland wanted Geronimo tried and executed. But the media came to his rescue. The New York Times wrote that the government had to honor the terms of surrender, but that it would be acceptable to keep the Indians prisoners indefinitely. That’s when Pensacola’s business community stepped forward and petitioned the federal government to have Geronimo and his men brought to Ft. Pickens, instead of Ft. Marion. The businessmen claimed that Geronimo and his men would be better guarded at Fort Pickens than at the overcrowded Ft. Marion, where more than 400 other Chiricahua and Warm Springs Apaches were imprisoned. It gave the government a way out of its dilemma, so the business community— with some help from their congressman—was successful in their efforts to have the Apaches held at Ft. Pickens. The imprisioned Apaches included: Geronimo, Naiche, Mangus, Perico, Fun, Ahnandia, Napi, Matsos, Chappo, Yanoyha, Tinsnothtoes, Lazieyah, Kilthdega, Ahzhonne, Beshe, Hunlona and Goso. Almost immediately upon their arrival in Pensacola in October 1886, Geronimo and his fellow Apaches were celebrities. An editorial in the Pensacola newspaper congratulated a congressman for bringing such a great tourist attraction to the city. The city even postponed its first major convention for a month so that conventioneers would be able to visit the Apaches. Delegates came from many states and paid 50 cents each for the boat ride out to Ft. Pickens. Railroads began offering excursions to Pensacola, where visitors would then take a boat out to Santa Rosa Island. The Governor of Florida was among those visitors, which seldom numbered fewer than 20 a day, and one day topped more than 450. Weekends drew larger crowds. The Rockefeller family yacht, The Alva, called at Ft. Pickens, as did the Duke of Sutherland’s yacht, the Sans Puer. The Duke visited with Geronimo for some time and brought news to him of his wife and children, still being held in Ft. Marion. In Geronimo: His own story, Geronimo writes this about his arrival at Ft. Pickens: “In forty days they took me from there [San Antonio] to Fort Pickens (Pensacola), Florida. Here they put me to sawing up large logs. There were several other Apache warriors with me, and all of us had to work every day. For nearly two years we were kept at hard labor in this place and we did not see our families until May 1887. This treatment was in direct violation of our treaty made at Skeleton Canyon.” Shortly after the Duke’s visit, the wives and children were brought from Ft. Marion to Ft. Pickens. The Apaches decided to hold a celebration in appreciation to everyone for the reuniting the families. The local business community went all out promoting and advertising the event as a “war dance.” Estimates put the number of spectators for that dance at about 500. The dance was held on the fort’s parade ground and spectators were packed into every corner, including standing atop the fort’s roof. Geronimo was schooled in how to write his name, which he would affix to seashells, paper or cards. He received 25 cents or more for his signature. Visitors frequently brought gifts—ranging from cigars to ribbons—to Geronimo. One man gave Geronimo a ring and Geronimo gave him his prized leather thongs that he wore around his wrists. One of Geronimo’s wives died of Bright’s Disease while at Ft. Pickens and one baby was born during that time. With no warning, on a Saturday night in May 1888, the Apaches were removed to Ft. Pickens and relocated to the Mount Vernon Barracks in Mobile. The local newspaper wrote, “Uncle Sam is a sly old fox in many of his many of his movements…. This is a severe blow at a certain summer industry and excursions to Ft. Pickens will likely be less numerous.” At Fort Pickens, the casemate where Geronimo lived was marked with a plaque. We visited it several times as I grew up. That casemate, and the entire wing of the fort where the Apache warriors were held, has since been destroyed by a hurricane, but other parts of the old fort still stand. My relatives told tales of the Apache warriors digging a tunnel from the island where Ft. Pickins was located to the mainland. As an adult, I know this to be completely impossible, but it made great stories to listen to as a child. In those stories, Geronimo was always the hero; doing the noble thing fighting for his family, land and way of life. Geronimo and his fellow Apaches were moved from Ft. Pickins in the middle of the night in May 1888. They were sent to the Mount Vernon Barracks north of Mobile where they were held for about five years. Here, they were just as popular as they had been at Ft. Pickens, sometimes entertaining more than 1,000 visitors a day at “Apache Village.” While imprisioned there, Geronimo’s son Chappo, his cousin Fun and Ahnandia died. Geronimo served as Justice of the Peace at Apache Village. “We had no property, and I looked in vain for General Miles to send me to that land of which he had spoken,” Geronimo wrote. “I longed in vain for the implements, house, and stock that General Miles had promised me. During this time one of my warriors, Fun, killed himself and his wife. Another one shot his wife and then shot himself. He fell dead, but the woman recovered and is still living. We were not healthy in this place, for the climate disagreed with us.” The disagreeable climate was part of the government’s overall strategy of dealing with the Apaches, who had won sympathy and admiration from many who had visited with them. The New York World reported the following: “The President has examined the case very carefully and has come to the conclusion that the life of continement (restrictive movement) for all those Indians in Florida, where they can do no harm, will be the most thorough punishment that can be visited upon them. As a matter of fact, the Indians transferred to Florida have been sentenced to a lingering death. They have been brought up in a mountain country, accustomed to freedom in the pure, cold air in a high latitude. Their transfer to confinement in the warm climates of Florida will simply result in their dying off like so many sheep. Experienced army officers do not think that there will be one of them alive in the next five years.” The climate of Florida and Southern Alabama is essentially the same and although the government moved the Apaches from Ft. Pickens, some say in fear of a Yellow Fever outbreak, they were deposited in essentially the same environment. Major-General Oliver Otis Howard had met Geronimo years earlier in the Dragoon Mountains of Southern Arizona. He wrote in his memoirs that he became friends with Geronimo and went to visit him at the Mount Vernon Barracks. “Here they were fed and clothed and guarded,” Howard wrote. “Their children were sent to school and they were all treated kindly, but they were prisoners and could not go away. “In 1889 I went to Mount Vernon Barracks, and the first man I saw as I got out of the train was Geronimo,” Howard wrote. “He had a bundle of canes of different sorts of wood, which he had peeled and painted and was selling them one by one. When he caught sight of me he passed his canes to another Indian and ran to meet me. I could not understand his Apache, but he embraced me twice and called his Mexican name, "Geronimo," "Geronimo," many times so that I should be sure to know who he was. “But though Geronimo tried his best to be happy and contented, he was homesick for Arizona and begged me to speak to the President for him. "Indians sick here," he said, "air bad and water bad." I told him that there would be no peace in Arizona if the Indians went back to the Chiricahua Mountains, for the Great Father at Washington could not control the Mexicans and white people there and make them do what was right; and Geronimo tried to understand.” In 1894 the Apaches were moved to Fort Sill, Okla., where they were given more than 50,000 acres of land, a promise that had been made by Brigadier General Nelson A. Miles at the time of Geronimo’s surrender in 1886. In time their cattle herd numbered more than 10,000 and Geronimo became a national celebrity. He was called the greatest living American General and was compared to Napoleon. Geronimo visited the St. Louis World's Fair in 1904, where he made a great deal of money selling photographs and autographs. “I sold my photographs for 25 cents, and was allowed to keep 10 cents of this for myself,” Geronimo wrote of his World’s Fair experience. “I also wrote my name for 10, 15, or 25 cents, as the case might be, and kept all of that money. I often made as much as $2 a day, and when I returned [to Ft. Sill] I had plenty of money—more than I had ever owned before.” Geronimo enjoyed his time spent at the World’s Fair. He wrote, “I am glad I went to the Fair. I saw many interesting things and learned much of the white people. They are a very kind and peaceful people. During all the time I was at the Fair no one tried to harm me in any way. Had this been among the Mexicans I am sure I should have been compelled to defend myself often. I wish all my people could have attended the fair.” Major-General Oliver Otis Howard, who had known Geronimo many years, wrote that the last time he saw Geronimo was at the St. Louis Exposition with the “Wild West Show.” “He stayed in St. Louis for many months, for people wanted to see him as much as they did the Filipinos from Manila, the Boers from South Africa, or the Eskimos from Alaska, and hardly anyone went away without asking to see Geronimo, the great Apache war chief,” Howard wrote. “His photographs were in great demand and he had learned to write his name, so he sold his autographs and made a good deal of money. He wanted to see other Indians, too, especially Indians who were not Apache. He was very much interested in other people from all over the world, the strange things that showmen did, the animals he had never seen before—bears from the icy north, elephants from Africa, learned horses and other things new and strange. Nothing escaped him, and everything he saw was full of interest to him.” As years passed, stories of Geronimo’s warrior ferocity made him into a legend that fascinated non-Indians and Indians alike. As a result, his appearances at public events generated much interest, and in 1905 he was quite the sensation when he appeared in President Theodore Roosevelt's inaugural parade. But Geronimo longed to return to Arizona. “There is no climate or soil which, to my mind, is equal to that of Arizona,” he wrote. “It is my land, my home, my fathers' land, to which I now ask to be allowed to return. I want to spend my last days there, and be buried among those mountains. If this could be I might die in peace, feeling that my people, placed in their native homes, would increase in numbers, rather than diminish as at present, and that our name would not become extinct. “I know that if my people were placed in that mountainous region lying around the head waters of the Gila River they would live in peace and act according to the will of the President,” he continued. “They would be prosperous and happy in tilling the soil and learning the civilization of the white men, whom they now respect. Could I but see this accomplished, I think I could forget all the wrongs that I have ever received, and die a contented and happy old man. But we can do nothing in this matter ourselves—we must wait until those in authority choose to act. If this cannot be done during my lifetime—if I must die in bondage—I hope that the remnant of the Apache tribe may, when I am gone, be granted the one privilege which they request—to return to Arizona.” Geronimo never saw his homeland again. He died on Feb. 17, 1909, near Ft. Sill after he laid in the middle of a road all night, drunk, in a freezing rain. The Chiricahuas, one of the most feared tribes of the Southwest, lived as prisoners of war of the United States for 27 years, the longest captivity of a Native American tribe in United States history. They were freed in 1913. To read more of Geronimo’s writings, see Geronimo: His own story at http://odur.let.rug.nl/~usa/B/geronimo/geronixx.htm. References: Geronimo: His Own Story, part of the “From Revolution to Reconstruction—an .HTML project” by the Department of Humanities, University of Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands. Text prepared by Jeroen Daanen, Peter Meindertsma, Else-Kirsten de Schiffart, Elfie Theijs and Carlo Tinschert. Online at: http://odur.let.rug.nl/~usa/B/geronimo/geronixx.htm. Howard, Major-General O.O. Famous Indian Chiefs I Have Known. With illustrations by George Varian. Century Co., NY: 1908. Skinner, Woodward B., Geronimo at Fort Pickens. Skinner Publications, Pensacola, Fla., 1981.
Pages to are hidden for
"Geronimo"Please download to view full document