(Italics are my comments to assist readers in understanding the fuller context. jg)
Because he has given me permission to tell my story; because he has read that story and knows I try to speak the truth; because I believe that he is fair-minded and will cause my people to receive justice in the future; and because he is chief of a great people, I dedicate this story of my life to Theodore Roosevelt, President of the United States. Geronimo.
(Over many months in 1905, Geronimo told is life story to S.M. Barrett. Barrett transcribed Geronimo’s spoken words into English with the help of an interpreter who Geronimo trusted.)
S. M. Barrett: 1905
Early in October I secured the services of an educated Indian, Asa Deklugie, son of Juh (pronounced Ho or sometimes Whoa), chief of the Nedni Apaches, as interpreter, and the work of compiling the book began. (Chief Juh and Geronimo were very close friends and fought many battles together. Juh stuttered and Geronimo often spoke for him. When directing his warriors, Juh usually gestured his commands, rather than try to speak.)
Geronimo refused to talk when a stenographer was present, or to wait for corrections or questions when telling the story. Each day he had in mind what he would tell and told it in a very clear, brief manner. He might prefer to talk at his own tepee, at Asa Deklugie’s house, in some mountain dell, or as he rode in a swinging gallop across the prairie; wherever his fancy led him, there he told whatever he wished to tell and no more.
On the day that he first gave any portion of his autobiography he would not be questioned about any details, nor would he add another word, but simply said, “Write what I have spoken,” and left us to remember and write the story without one bit of assistance. He would agree, however, to come on another day to my study, or any place designated by me, and listen to the reproduction (in Apache) of what had been told, and at such times would answer all questions or add information wherever he could be convinced that it was necessary.
He soon became so tired of book making that he would have abandoned the task but for the fact that he had agreed to tell the complete story. When he once gives his word, nothing will turn him from fulfilling his promise. A very striking illustration of this was furnished by him early in January, 1906. He had agreed to come to my study on a certain date, but at the appointed hour the interpreter came alone, and said that Geronimo was very sick with cold and fever. He had come to tell me that we must appoint another date, as he feared the old warrior had an attack of pneumonia. It was a cold day and the interpreter drew a chair up to the grate to warm himself after the exposure of the long ride. Just as he was seating himself he looked out of the window, then rose quickly, and without speaking pointed to a rapidly moving object coming our way. In a moment I recognized the old chief riding furiously (evidently trying to arrive as soon as the interpreter did), his horse flecked with foam and reeling from exhaustion. Dismounting he came in and said in a hoarse whisper, “I promised to come. I am here.”
I explained to him that I had not expected him to come on such a stormy day, and that in his
physical condition he must not try to work. He stood for some time, and then without speaking left the room, remounted his tired pony, and with bowed head faced ten long miles of cold north wind—he had kept his promise.
When he had finished his story I submitted the manuscript to Major Charles W. Taylor, Eighteenth Cavalry, commandant, Fort Sill, Oklahoma, who gave me some valuable suggestions as to additional related information which I asked Geronimo to give. In most cases the old chief gave the desired information, but in some instances he refused, stating his reasons for so doing.
(Note that Barrett refers to Geronimo as a chief, which he was not. Geronimo was a shaman or medicine man who claimed to have certain supernatural powers. Mangus Coloradas, Geronimo’s chief, and other Apache chiefs would confer upon him the honor of leading war parties, and only in that sense, could Geronimo be considered a war chief.)
When the added information had been incorporated I submitted the manuscript to President Roosevelt, from whose letter I quote: “This is a very interesting volume which you have in manuscript, but I would advise that you disclaim responsibility in all cases where the reputation of an individual is assailed.”
In accordance with that suggestion, I have appended notes throughout the book disclaiming responsibility for adverse criticisms of any persons mentioned by Geronimo.
(In the first 4 chapters, Geronimo reveals the Apache creation myth, tells Barrett in considerable detail about his youth, and how his people hunted and farmed.)
CHAPTER V: THE FAMILY
My grandfather, Maco, had been our chief. I never saw him, but my father often told me of the great size, strength, and sagacity of this old warrior. Their principal wars had been with the Mexicans. They had some wars with other tribes of Indians also, but were seldom at peace for any great length of time with the Mexican towns.
Maco died when my father was but a young warrior, and Mangus-Colorado 9 became chief of the Bedonkohe Apaches. When I was but a small boy my father died, after having been sick for some time. When he passed away, carefully the watchers closed his eyes, then they arrayed him in his best clothes, painted his face afresh, wrapped a rich blanket around him, saddled his favorite horse, bore his arms in front of him, and led his horse behind, repeating in wailing tones his deeds of valor as they carried his body to a cave in the mountain. Then they slew his horses, and we gave away all of his other property,as was customary in our tribe, after which his body was deposited in the cave, his arms beside him. His grave is hidden by piles of stone. Wrapped in splendor he lies in seclusion, and the winds in the pines sing a low requiem over the dead warrior.
After my father’s death I assumed the care of my mother. She never married again, although according to the customs of our tribe she might have done so immediately after his death. Usually, however, the widow who has children remains single after her husband’s death for two or three years; but the widow without children marries again immediately. After a warrior’s death his widow returns to her people and may be given away or sold by her father or brothers. My mother chose to live with me, and she never desired to marry again. We lived near our old home and I supported her.
In 1846, being seventeen years of age, I was admitted to the council of the warriors. Then I was very happy, for I could go wherever I wanted and do whatever I liked. I had not been under the control of any individual, but the customs of our tribe prohibited me from sharing the glories of the warpath until the council admitted me. When opportunity offered, after this, I could go on the warpath with my tribe. This would be glorious. I hoped soon to serve my people in battle. I had long desired to fight with our warriors.
Perhaps the greatest joy to me was that now I could marry the fair Alope, daughter of No-po-so. She was a slender, delicate girl, but we had been lovers for a long time. So, as soon as the council granted me these privileges I went to see her father concerning our marriage. Perhaps our love was of no interest to him; perhaps he wanted to keep Alope with him, for she was a dutiful daughter; at any rate he asked many ponies for her. I made no reply, but in a few days appeared before his wigwam with the herd of ponies and took with me Alope. This was all the marriage ceremony necessary in our tribe.
Not far from my mother’s tepee I had made for us a new home. The tepee was made of buffalo hides and in it were many bear robes, lion hides, and other trophies of the chase, as well as my spears, bows, and arrows.
Alope had made many little decorations of beads and drawn work on buckskin, which she placed in our tepee. She also drew many pictures on the walls of our home. She was a good wife, but she was never strong. We followed the traditions of our fathers and were happy. Three children came to us—children that played, loitered, and worked as I had done.
CHAPTER VI: KAS-KI-YEH
Part I: The Massacre
In the summer of 1858, being at peace with the Mexican towns as well as with all the neighboring Indian tribes, we went south into Old Mexico to trade. Our whole tribe (Bedonkohe Apaches) went through Sonora toward Casa Grande, our destination, but just before reaching that place we stopped at another Mexican town called by the Indians “Kas-ki-yeh.” Here we stayed for several days, camping just outside the city. Every day we would go into town to trade, leaving our camp under the protection of a small guard so that our arms, supplies, and women and children would not be disturbed during our absence.
Late one afternoon when returning from town we were met by a few women and children who told us that Mexican troops from some other town had attacked our camp, killed all the warriors of the guard, captured all our ponies, secured our arms, destroyed our supplies, and killed many of our women and children. Read More
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