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May 12, 2011


For those of you who'd like to learn more about the life of Geronimo, we thought we'd share this article from museum historian Mark Hirsch. It originally appeared in the Summer 2008 issue of NMAI's American Indian magazine.

GeronimoLR General Crook and Geronimo meet in Mexico’s Sierra Madre Mountains in 1886 to arrange the terms of the Chiricahua Apache surrender. (PHOTO: CAMILLUS S. FLY/NMAI/P08397)

By Mark Hirsch

American Indian history is filled with difficult stories of forced removal, but only one Indian people were wrenched from their homelands and held as prisoners of war for 27 years. That singular story is the focus of the Chiricahua Apache gallery in the Our Peoples exhibition at the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI). Using quotations, photographs, and museum objects, contemporary Chiricahua Apaches describe how their ancestors were held in internment camps as prisoners of war in Florida, Alabama, and Fort Sill, Oklahoma, respectively, from 1886 to 1913 – the longest captivity of any group in U.S. history.

One of seven Apache-speaking tribes – which include the Jicarilla, Kiowa-Apache, Lipan, Mescalero,  Navajo, and Western Apaches – the Chiricahua Apaches’ traditional homelands extended throughout southwestern New Mexico, southeastern Arizona, and northern Sonora and Chihuahua, Mexico. Chiricahua bands moved with the seasons, hunting, gathering, and traveling over their lands, as one observer put it, like “fleet-footed Bedouins of the Southwest.” These lifeways were disrupted in the 1850s, when white settlers, miners, and soldiers arrived in large numbers and took possession of increasing amounts of land. Conflicts over land and free passage led to violence, and by the 1860s, violence morphed into all-out war.

Leaders such as Mangas Coloradas (ca. 1793-1863), Cochise (ca. 1810-1874), Victorio (ca. 1825-1880), Geronimo (1829-1909), and others fought bravely to protect the Chiricahuas’ lands and freedom, but they and their followers were outmanned and outgunned. Faced with extermination and starvation,most Chiricahuas had to move to the San Carlos Reservation west of the Rio Grande where the U.S. attempted to concentrate all Apaches.

The transition was painful. Accustomed to moving about at will, the Chiricahuas felt like prisoners on the hot, overcrowded, and insect-infested San Carlos Reservation in Arizona. Soldiers were everywhere, and the Chiricahuas chafed against their arbitrary authority, resisted efforts to quash Apache rituals, and complained bitterly of inadequate food supplies.

GeronimoLR Geronimo and Naiche, son of Chiricahua leader Cochise, sit on horseback, flanked by Geronimo’s son (holding an infant) and an unidentified man. (PHOTO: CAMILLUS PHOTO: A. J. MCDONALD/NMAI/P07009 S. FLY/NMAI/P06892)

Geronimo, like the other leaders of the Chiricahua, detested the enclosure of his people. In 1876, he fled the San Carlos Reservation, but was later captured and thrown in the guardhouse. He and his people fled again in 1878, returned under pressure two years later, then bolted again in 1881. They returned in 1882 – this time, attacking the reservation and taking hundreds of their people with them.

During these breaks for freedom, the Chiricahuas survived by raiding towns and settlements and by waylaying wagon trains and stagecoaches. When pursued, Chiricahua horsemen evaded capture by blending into the rugged and uncharted canyons ofMexico’s Sierra Madre Mountains. These guerrilla tactics struck fear into the hearts of settlers throughout Arizona Territory, and a rising chorus of anti- Chiricahua accusations soon encouraged the U.S. Army to redouble its efforts to capture the warriors.

Under the command of Gen.George Crook and, later,Gen.Nelson Miles, some 5,000 soldiers, employing Apache scouts, finally tracked the Chiricahuas to their mountain hideout in Mexico.With the security of their hideout breached, the Apaches gradually surrendered, and drifted back to San Carlos.“The Chiricahua scouts were promised land and money for their service, but they, too, were betrayed,” says Anita Lester, one of the Chiricahua Apache community members who consulted on the exhibition. During the next three years, Geronimo and his band recurrently broke away from and returned to the reservation – a pattern that was ended when Geronimo surrendered to Gen. Miles at Skeleton Canyon.

GeronimoLR Chiricahua Apache prisoners of war (including Geronimo) wait by a train taking them to
Fort Marion in St. Augustine, Fla. (PHOTO: A. J. MCDONALD/NMAI/P07009)

Exiling Chiricahua Apaches was a popular notion in Arizona Territory in 1886. The idea was first tried out in the spring, when the U.S. began shipping Apache prisoners to Florida. By depopulating the San Carlos Reservation, army officials hoped to deprive the Apaches of supplies and support, the twin pillars upon which all popular guerrilla movements stand. But what began as a military strategy soon became a blueprint for social policy. Ultimately, the U.S. decided to exile all Chiricahuas from Arizona Territory. Even those who had stayed on the reservation and who had tried to walk the white man’s road would be rounded up as prisoners of war and sent off to Florida.

Some 498 Apaches were transported from Arizona to Florida in 1886.Most, including 164 children,were sent to Fort Marion in St. Augustine, Fla. Some 17 men, including Geronimo, Mangus (the son of Mangas Coloradas), Naiche (the son of Cochise), Perico, Fun, Chappo, and others,were separated from their families and sent nearly 400 miles away to Fort Pickens, a deserted structure on Santa Rosa Island, in Pensacola Bay. There they were put to hard labor.

In the steamy Florida lowlands, the Chiricahuas struggled to survive in an impossibly overcrowded, mosquito-infested environment. Accustomed to the dry Southwest, the Apaches were hammered by humidity. Given meager rations, the prisoners grew malnourished and took ill. Lacking access to traditional medicinal plants, the Chiricahuas were helpless to stem the tide of disease, which included tuberculosis – an affliction that had no known cure in Native or Euro American culture. By 1889, 119 of the 498 Chiricahuas were dead.

GeronimoLR Geronimo, his wife, and children stand in their melon patch in Fort Sill, Okla. He died years later, still in Fort Sill. (PHOTO: NMAI/P13115)

Even children separated from their families by the U.S. and sent to the Carlisle Indian Boarding School in Pennsylvania fell prey. Of the 106 students who arrived at Carlisle in 1886, some 27 would die by 1889. The Chiricahuas’ plight soon attracted the attention of reformers, who demanded that the detainees be transferred to a more suitable environment. The U.S. responded by sending the Chiricahuas to Mount  Vernon Barracks, an installation 30 miles north of Mobile, Ala. Most of the Chiricahuas arrived there in 1887; the remainder, including Geronimo, came in 1888.

In Alabama, the Chiricahuas were permitted to butcher dead cattle found in railroad rights-of-way, to buy beef from farmers using money earned selling keepsakes and autographs to tourists, and to barter army-issued rations for more and better foods. But more palatable provisions could neither blunt humidity nor eradicate disease. “We had thought Fort Marion was a terrible place with the mosquitoes and the rain,” recalled Geronimo’s son, Eugene Chihuahua, “but this was worse.... It rained nearly all the time.... the mosquitoes almost ate us alive.... Babies died from their bites… [and] our people got the shaking sickness.... We burned one minute and froze the next....We chilled and shook.”

Walter Reed, an as yet little-known army physician, was assigned to Mount Vernon Barracks from 1887 to 1890. He built a hospital for the Chiricahuas and worked hard to beat the diseases that stalked them. Despite his efforts, mortality rates continued to soar, renewing discussions about relocating the prisoners to yet another installation. Returning the Chiricahuas to their homelands was never an option.

GeronimoLR Geronimo (far right) poses with other Chiricahua prisoners of war in Florida’s Fort Marion in 1887. (PHOTO: NMAI/P13120)

“[I]f an effort was made to send them back to Arizona,” Gen. Miles warned, “they would be immediately taken out of the hands of the military authorities and tried and hung, or killed without trial” by local vigilantes. The U.S. heeded Miles’s warning. On October 4, 1894, the 259 remaining Apache prisoners of war boarded another train – this one bound for Fort Sill, Okla.

At Fort Sill, the Chiricahuas were met by a delegation of neighboring Comanches and Kiowas.With winter coming, the newcomers quickly set about fashioning shelters made from branches, boards, and other materials. In the spring, they began to build wooden homes, and soon, 12 small villages, each composed of a separate Chiricahua band or group, were scattered across the western end of the post. People took up cattle-raising and farming. Each family tilled ten acres: eight for corn, one for garden crops, and one for cotton. Soon the Chiricahuas began to restore their traditional way of life. “They went back to using old-time cradleboards,” says James Kunestsis, Chiricahua Apache traditional dance leader who also consulted on the exhibit.“They started doing dances and prayers.And they started having children again, because when they were sent to Florida and Alabama, they stopped living.”

GeronimoLR In Fort Sill, Miss Vos, a Dutch Reformed Church mission worker, teaches kitchen work to
Apache girls (left to right) Isabel Enjady and Eloise Perico (sisters), Irene Gooday, and
Minnie Dee. Circa 1900. (PHOTO: NMAI/P20960)

Yet the Chiricahuas continued to long for home – perhaps no one more so than Geronimo. Since arriving at Fort Sill, Geronimo was exploited for his notoriety. As a prisoner of war, in 1903, he appeared at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition (World’s Fair) in St. Louis,Mo., selling his photograph for 25 cents each. In 1905, he was in President Theodore Roosevelt’s inaugural parade and later related his experiences to Stephen Melvil Barrett,who published Geronimo’s Story of His Life in 1907. Still, Geronimo was homesick. In his autobiography, he implored President Roosevelt to allow his people to return to Arizona, but his petition was not granted. Geronimo died, still a prisoner of war, on February 17, 1909. He was buried at Fort Sill.

It took 27 years for the passions of the conflict to subside enough that some sense of justice could be administered. Finally, in 1913 the Chiricahuas’ status as prisoners of war was lifted. Of the 498 original detainees, only 271 survived their 27-year ordeal. The newly freed Chiricahuas were given the choice of accepting lands north of Fort Sill or sharing a reservation with Mescalero Apaches in south-central New Mexico. “Up to the last minute, people were trying to make the decision,” says Fort Sill Apache historian Michael Darrow. “Brothers and sisters split up, fathers and children split up. Some wanted to go one place, some to another. That’s how our tribe came to be split, with the Fort Sill Apaches in Oklahoma and the Chiricahuas at Mescalero.” Ultimately, 187 Chiricahuas decided to move to New Mexico; 84 chose to remain in Oklahoma.

One might expect to find words of anger in a history exhibition by and about the Chiricahua Apaches – retribution for the wrongs of the past. Instead, visitors will encounter a spirit of healing and a celebration of survival – ethos of the power of knowing and remembering. “War came to us, and we fought back. In the end, we were pushed aside and shipped off to prison for 27 years. Yet we survived in spite of everything.We kept our values and our traditions, no matter what. We preserve these stories because we want our children and grandchildren to know that they come from a great people,” the Chiricahua Apache curators explain in their exhibit. “No one can go into this world and be peaceful within themselves unless they know who they are.”

Mark Hirsch is a historian at the National Museum of the American Indian, where he won the Employee of the Year award in 2003.


Comments (10)

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Why so very interesting. Thanks for sharing all this with us . Thanks so much

Many thanks for taking the time to talk about this, I strongly about this and really enjoy learning more on this subject. If possible, as you get information, can you allow us updating your site with more information? Extremely good for me.

this site is awesome, im bookmarking everything i read

Mark, I just returned from a trip to Alberta where Edmonton has become the mosquito capital of the country because of the intense rains and cool weather. On the news they were talking about old preventions that native Indians were using a century ago to prevent mosquito bites.

I've been doing research on natural remedies for bugs and your article was listed in Google. On my blog I am asking people to list their favorite concoctions to prevent bug bites. The Assiniboine Indians would use rendered bear fat, I'm hoping to find ideas that are a little more palatable.

The Chiricahua Apaches might never have had to deal with West Nile, but their hardships were very real. If you have any information from your research on what they used to protect themselves from insects, I would appreciate an email. Thanks, Dave.

highly informative article. thanks for sharing your thought..excellent!

i love the post .. its nice ..

Many thanks for taking the time to talk about this, I strongly about this and really enjoy learning more on this subject. If possible, as you get information, can you allow us updating your site with more information? Extremely good for me.

I love the picture with the top hats!

Thanks for sharing excellent informations. Your web site is very cool.

My wife's mother's mother's family were Creek who stayed behind in Alabama after the Removal. An uncle claims there is also Apache ancestry. Is it possible that the Chiricahuas had children by local women while held prisoners in the Mount Vernon Barracks?
Is there a list of names of the prisoners held there?

May 09, 2011

“Geronimo” Code Name Sparks Controversy

P08410 Geronimo in Mexico

The media, politicians, tribal leaders and Indian Country were swift to react to the news of the code name “Geronimo” used in conjunction with the killing of terrorist Osama bin Laden.

CBS 60 MinutesInterview with President Barak Obama. Steve Croft conducts a riveting 30-minute interview with the president as he describes the weekend that made history. PRESIDENT OBAMA: “There was a point before folks had left, before we had gotten everybody back on the helicopter and were flying back to base, where they said Geronimo has been killed. And Geronimo was the code name for bin Laden. And now obviously at that point these guys were operating in the dark with all kinds of stuff going on so everybody was cautious." The link above provides a transcrips, as well as video.

BBC—Osama bin Laden: Why Geronimo? The code name for the operation to capture Osama bin Laden was Geronimo. Why was it named after one of the best-known Native Americans, Geronimo? The Apache warrior's name conjures up an image of the American Wild West, the world over. The fact that bin Laden had been killed by US Special Forces was reported to President Barack Obama on Sunday with the words "Geronimo EKIA" (Enemy Killed in Action). US officials have not commented on why the name Geronimo was chosen—and may never do so. Referring to US military possibilities in the tribal areas of Afghanistan's mountainous regions, Allan R. Millet, a retired Marine Corps colonel and Ohio State University professor, said in 2001: "It's like shooting missiles at Geronimo. . . you might get a couple of Apaches, but what difference does that make?"

Reuters—Bin Laden, Geronimo link angers Native Americans. The reported use of "Geronimo" as a codeword in the operation that led to Osama bin Laden's killing has angered some Native Americans and threatens to become an embarrassment for the Obama administration. It has been widely reported that U.S. forces said "Geronimo EKIA (Enemy Killed in Action)" to confirm bin Laden's death. The Senate Committee on Indian Affairs discussed on Thursday concerns raised over "the linking of the name of Geronimo, one of the greatest Native American heroes, with the most hated enemy of the United States," said the committee's chief counsel Loretta Tuell.

P07009 Apache prisoners

Native Americans object to linking Geronimo to bin Laden. In light of reports that linked the name "Geronimo" with the operation that took down Osama bin Laden, Native Americans expressed disappointment Thursday and pointed to the sacrifices they have made in the service."To associate a Native warrior with bin Laden is not an accurate reflection of history and it undermines the military service of Native people," said Jefferson Keel, president of the National Congress of American Indians. "It's critical that military leaders and operational standards honor the service of those who protect our freedom." "Whether it was intended only to name the military operation to kill or capture Osama bin Laden or to give Osama bin Laden himself the code name Geronimo, either was an outrageous insult and mistake," he said. To use the name is "such a subversion of history that it also defames a great human spirit and Native American leader," he said.

Fox News—Indian Tribe Seeks Apology for Use of Code Name Geronimo for Bin Laden. The Fort Sill Apache Tribe leader is demanding that President Obama apologize for the government's use of the code name Geronimo for terrorist Osama bin Laden. Tribal Chairman Jeff Houser asked for the apology in a letter sent Tuesday to the president. "We are grateful that the United States was successful in its mission against bin Laden, but associating Geronimo's name with an international terrorist only perpetuates old stereotypes about Apaches," Houser wrote. "In the 1800s, Geronimo and the Chiricahua Apache people were portrayed as savages," he added. "This portrayal was used as justification for the forced removal from their homelands and their subsequent imprisonment. Linking Geronimo's name to an infamous terrorist only reinforces this false and defamatory stereotype." Houser says equating Geronimo or any other Native American figure with a "mass murderer and cowardly terrorist" is painful and offensive.  

Washington PostAmerican Indians object to “Geronimo” as code for bin Laden raid. “I was celebrating that we had gotten this guy and feeling so much a part of America,” Tom Holm, a former Marine, a member of the Creek/Cherokee nations and a retired professor of American Indian studies at the University of Arizona, said by phone Tuesday. “And then this ‘Geronimo EKIA’ thing comes up. I just said, ‘Why pick on us?’ Robert E. Lee killed more Americans than Geronimo ever did, and Hitler would seem to be evil personified, but the code name for bin Laden is Geronimo?” Suzan Shown Harjo, president of the Morning Star Institute, a Native American advocacy group based in Washington, has long fought against the use of Indian imagery in American life (including as the mascot of the Washington Redskins). She sighed when asked about the latest iteration of Geronimo. “It’s how deeply embedded the ‘Indian as enemy’ is in the collective mind of America,” she said. “To this day, when soldiers are going into enemy territory, it’s common for it to be called ‘Indian Country.’”

P06842 Geronimo studio portraitTime Why ‛Geronimo’? For Some, Bin Laden Code Name Holds Anti-Native American Implications. In the situation room Sunday, President Obama waited to hear if Geronimo was dead. Then word came. “We’ve IDed Geronimo,” said a voice. Updated on May 4, 2011: He was dead. He was also Osama bin Laden. So why nickname the operation to kill America's most-hated terrorist with the name of a famous Native American freedom fighter? Good question.

Yahoo—Native Americans offended by code name ‘Geronimo.’ The top staff member on the US Senate's Indian Affairs Committee also criticized the code name, adding that insensitive use of Native American names and symbols would be the subject of an upcoming congressional hearing. "These inappropriate uses of Native American icons and cultures are prevalent throughout our society, and the impacts to native and non-native children are devastating," Loretta Tuell, the committee's chief counsel, said in a statement Tuesday. "Concerns over the linking of the name of Geronimo, one of the greatest Native American heroes, with the most hated enemies of the United States is an example of the kinds of issues we intended to address at Thursday's hearing," she said, adding that the hearing was scheduled before the raid that killed bin Laden. Since this information hit the news stands through out the nation, NAJA has received numerous call of complaints from our fellow colleagues and tribal members who were upset to find out that again, our Native People are being equated to a terrorist/murderer/enemy number one.

USA Today—Indian leaders cry foul over bin Laden Geronimo’ nickname. “This victory has otherwise united our country,” Indian Affairs Chairman Daniel Akaka (D–Hawai`i), said of bin Laden's killing. “It is unfortunate that this code name was chosen.” Akaka said the insult, unintended as it may have been, only demonstrated the need for greater cultural sensitivity. Indian leaders agreed, saying professional and college team nicknames, such as Braves, Chiefs, and Redskins, and their clownish mascots, continue to demean American Indian culture and leave a lasting effect that can be seen in the down-and-out reservations that dot the United States. 

KOAT-TV—NM Senator Denounces Geronimo Connection to Bin Laden. A New Mexico senator is denouncing the military's decision to use the code name "Geronimo" in the mission to kill Osama bin Laden. During a hearing Thursday to address Native American stereotypes, Sen. Tom Udall (D– New Mexico) said the issue has already sparked a storm of emotion. Udall stressed that he is not critical of those who carried out the heroic mission in Pakistan, but he's concerned about the implications of using the Native American warrior in that context. Udall said he's reaching out to the White House and the Department of Defense to figure out why Geronimo's name was used.

Indian Country Today Media Network—San Carlos Apache Tribe Seeks Apology from President Obama. May 6, 2011, Dear President Obama: On behalf of the San Carlos Apache Tribe, we vehemently object and oppose the designation of the name of our Apache leader, Geronimo, as a military euphemism for an evil man, Osama bin Laden, by the United States. The San Carlos Apache Tribal Council has thoughtfully and carefully consulted on this extremely sensitive issue and respectfully request that you do the following: (1) Immediately issue a formal apology for equating the name of Geronimo with Osama bin Laden as part of the military exercise; (2) Immediately issue an Executive Order, as Commander in Chief, that the name “Geronimo” never be used disparagingly and in association with a known enemy of the United States; (3) Promote Federal Indian Policy that seeks to uplift and recognize Native American contributions to society, such as that of the San Carlos Apache Tribe, and implement policies to improve the way of life for the Apache people. Respectfully, Terry Rambler, Chairman, San Carlos Apache Tribe.

P23236 Geronimo portraitDemocracy NowUse of "Geronimo" as Code for Osama bin Laden: "The Continuation of the Wars against Indigenous People. We get reaction from Native American activist and writer, Winona LaDuke. "The reality is that the military is full of native nomenclature,” says LaDuke. "You’ve got Black Hawk helicopters, Apache Longbow helicopters. You’ve got Tomahawk missiles. The term used when you leave a military base in a foreign country is to go 'off the reservation, into Indian Country.' So what is that messaging that is passed on? It is basically the continuation of the wars against indigenous people."

Indian Country TodayThink about Your Legacy, Mr. President. Tina Marie Osceola, historic resource officer for the Seminole Tribe of Florida wrote, “Regardless of the context in which ‘Geronimo’ was used, we were disappointed that our March message concerning the comparison of the Seminole to Al Qaeda terrorists by the Department of Defense was not taken seriously by the White House and has continued on to this day with the death of bin Laden.” Chairman Mitchell Cypress wrote, “In 2008, I listened to your promises to our people and was assured that you would be an advocate for Indian country. As leaders of our nations, you and I have the opportunity to be the faces of change that all Americans can believe in and the example of true government to government relations.”

National Museum of the American Indian—NMAI Statement on Geronimo by Associate Director Tim Johnson. “One could hardly think of a more egregious insult than to be compared or linked to Osama bin Laden. But this is what happened when the otherwise exacting military operation that brought bin Laden to justice gave him, or the operation, the code name Geronimo. Like millions of people in this country and around the world, American Indians greeted news of the successful tactical strike with a great sense of pride, satisfaction, and relief, as well as ongoing sorrow for the thousands of innocent people who died due to bin Laden's pervasive violence. So it came as a painful surprise and disappointment when, as details emerged of the chronology of the operation, the first report of bin Laden's death from the Navy SEAL Team Six was "Geronimo EKIA" (enemy killed in action).”

Native American Journalists AssociationStatement by Rhonda LeValdo, NAJA president.The information distributed to multiple-media sources across the nation, on the U.S. government’s behalf, has proved to the Native Nations across the board that the American people in addition to the U.S. government still don’t understand that we, the Native People of this land, are not here for constant public humiliation. In the New York Times article, ‘Clues Gradually Led to the Location of Osama Bin Laden,’ Leon E. Panetta, the C.I.A. director, narrated ‘We have a visual on Geronimo,’ he said. A few minutes later: ‘Geronimo EKIA.’ Enemy Killed In Action. Regardless, the U.S government has a responsibility to the people of this country, Native people are very much a part of and for that reason, utilizing the name Geronimo was an unacceptable choice of words.”

United Methodist ChurchOsama Bin Laden was no “Geronimo. The Native American Task Force of the United Methodist General Board of Church & Society (GBCS) added its voice to the dismay expressed by Native populations at the U.S. Armed Forces use of the name “Geronimo” as its code word for Osama bin Laden. “While we decry terrorism in any form, we refute the notion that our Native leaders, past and current, be paralleled in any way with persons who unashamedly destroy life,” said the Rev. Chebon Kernell, a Seminole who co-chairs the GBCS Native American Task Force. “We are all articulating the disappointment, concern and frustration with the use of the name of this iconic Native American hero,” Kernell emphasized. He said the hope is that persons throughout the church, country and world will continue to work to erase stereotypical misunderstandings that create false images of people and communities.

Associated Press via Forbes—Indian Country Network calls for Geronimo support. A media network aimed at Native Americans is urging social network users to change their profile pictures to an image of Geronimo in honor of the legendary Apache warrior. Geronimo profile pictures started popping up at the beginning of the week, after details of the raid that killed bin Laden came to light. The code name also prompted statements of disapproval from tribes, a call for President Barack Obama to apologize and scores of angry comments on social network sites.

Images of Goyathlay (Geronimo, ca. 1825–1909, Chiricahua Apache):

Goyathlay and Naiche (Natchez, 1857–1921) on horseback; standing next to them are Geronimo's second cousins, Perico who is holding a baby, and either Fun or Tsisnah. Cañon de los Embudos, Sonora, Mexico; March 1886, during negotiations for the band's surrender to Gen. George Crook. Photo by Camillus Fly. P08410

Chiricahua Apache prisoners, including Goyathlay (front row, 3rd from right) and Naiche (first row, 4th from right), at a rest stop along the Southern Pacific Railroad, en route to Fort Marion, Florida. Nueces River, Texas; September 10, 1886. Photo by A. J. McDonald. P07009

Studio portrait, southern Arizona; ca. 1890. Photo by A. Frank Randall or G. Ben Wittick. P6842

Fort Sill, Indian Territory (present-day Comanche County, Oklahoma). Photo by Dagle's Studio, Murphysboro, Illinois; May 14, 1905. P23236


Comments (15)

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@Brian: If you accept the "smaller" acts of racism, it makes it much easier for others to perform "larger" acts of racism. We must fight racism wherever and whenever it rears its ugly head or progress is an illusion.

I totally agree. Its part of our history, right? Glad reading your page. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Thanks for posting this info. I just want to let you know that I just check out your site and I find it very interesting and informative. I can’t wait to read lots of your posts.

To Brian, If you are NDN then this issue would have hurt you dearly. This is not petty, we are tired of the government looking at us as some kind of joke. I hope in the future all NDN people will rise together and take this land back. Make the white people and everyone else survive like our ancestors did and like we still do today.

such a nice article!i do thank you for sharing this one!good job.,

thank you for posting this info.its nice & i can't wait to read lots of your post.. thank you !!!

Didnt know Gerinimo was a native name..probably the reason they are offended is because of its attachment to the killing of another person


thanks for sharing this historic post...

I am amazed by this history picture and story you wrote,thumbs up for this.

i love your blog post, it really hit the spot. do you have any particular reason for creating this or do you just want to share knowledge? Im glad you enjoy history aswell

I thought the code name fitting as both men eluded overwhelming forces for long periods. The choice was a tribute, not a link to terrorism. (Yes, I'm a gringo.)

Thank you for this article! It is very interesting! We hope to come back with other articles as interesting and exciting!


Thanks for the historical read you shared.

I just want to let you know that I just check out your site and I find it very interesting and informative. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

i love your blog post, it really hit the spot
thanks for sharing this historic post...
I hope in the future all NDN people will rise together and take this land back

May 05, 2011

Statement from the National Museum of the American Indian on Geronimo

By Tim Johnson (Mohawk), NMAI Associate Director for Museum Programs

As our mission statement directs, "The National Museum of the American Indian is committed to advancing knowledge and understanding of the Native cultures of the Western Hemisphere—past, present, and future. . . . " The essential value of this commitment, and need for it, was confirmed this week when a defective historical metaphor, absent of deliberation and veracity, was fashioned, expressed, and spread around the world.

One could hardly think of a more egregious insult than to be compared or linked to Osama Bin Laden. But this is what happened when the otherwise exacting military operation that brought Bin Laden to justice gave him, or the operation, the code name Geronimo. Like millions of people in this country and around the world, American Indians greeted news of the successful tactical strike with a great sense of pride, satisfaction, and relief, as well as ongoing sorrow for the thousands of innocent people who died due to Bin Laden's pervasive violence. So it came as a painful surprise and disappointment when, as details emerged of the chronology of the operation, the first report of Bin Laden's death from the Navy SEAL Team Six was "Geronimo EKIA" (enemy killed in action).

Unfortunately, there exist latent perceptions of Geronimo within American folk culture that remain significantly divorced from reality. This particular issue demonstrates the void that exists and the harm that can be done when history is rendered incomplete. Geronimo was indeed pursued by the U.S. armed forces, but his tragic public story has far different antecedents, beginning with the massacre of his wife and children by Mexican forces, continued through his defense of the Apache homeland, and ending with his long imprisonment in places distantly removed from the southwestern lands that forged his culture and identity, including Fort Pickens, Florida. Geronimo was a Native patriot whose people experienced the relentless and violent encroachments of Mexican and American settlers and forces. Neither he, nor any American Indian, should be linked to Osama Bin Laden.

It remains clear that a significant amount of work remains to round out the American public's deeper understanding of American Indian history and culture. At the National Museum of the American Indian we'll certainly do our part, in partnership with American Indian nations, communities, and organizations across the country, to advance that understanding. As this particularly unfortunate episode reveals, it's long past time to fill in the missing pages of American history.

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useful information

May 02, 2011

Quiz Show: American Indian “Trivial Pursuit”

Joba_Chamberlain_pitching_2008 A player sits down at the game and pits his knowledge of American Indians against his friends or family. He poises his hand over the button, ready to answer a question—he anticipates “What is a tipi?” or “Who was Pocahontas?” Of course he knows these answers and imagines himself beating his friends. . . . But instead, to his surprise the question comes up “Which American Indian player currently pitches for the New York Yankees?” Confusion and shock run through his mind. WAIT! There are American Indians still here and they play professional baseball? (For the answer, see the photo captions at the end of this post.)

The Quiz Show, which will be located at the entrance of the Activity Center when it opens this fall, can be played by a single person competing against his or her own knowledge by trying to reach a new best score or by up to three players competing against one another. Currently around 100 questions have been developed, based on both things members of the museum’s floor staff hear everyday from visitors and information that shows the innovation and adaptability of American Indians. Yes, some of our cultures lived in tipis and tipis are a form of a home, but the quiz will not be limited to that sort of knowledge. Instead, the questions cover a range of categories and topics from American Indians 101, Statistics, and Geography, to Sports and Pop Culture. There will be a time limit for the player to choose his or her answer.

IAC_Interactives_1-15-11_03 The players' learning won’t be finished with a right or wrong answer. We are including a detailed answer to the question asked and a small graphic to help the player visually understand the answer given.

We tested the first phase of the Quiz Show during the Chocolate Festival in February, and it was a big hit! Many players loved getting familiar questions to which they knew the answers, but they also loved the questions that they did not know. One visitor (a young person) played until he could answer correctly all 10 questions we were testing that day. We will continue to test other sets of questions throughout the summer.

So why a Quiz Show?
When I was given the task of creating questions for a Quiz Show in the new Activity Center, I was excited. Excited because I grew up watching Jeopardy and, playing Trivial Pursuit, and I love question-and-answer games. But even more, excited because what better way to encourage children, families, and other visitors to learn about American Indians in a fun way? Working at the museum as a Cultural Interpreter, I am asked many questions on subjects ranging from casinos to history. And then there are the more unusual ones, such as “Do Indians wear underwear?” or “Do Indians kiss?” Being in contact with the public on a daily basis, I also see many visitors who are hesitant to ask questions because they don’t want to seem ignorant about American Indians and our cultures, laws, traditions, languages, etc. Hopefully the Quiz Show will allow all sorts of visitors to enjoy becoming more knowledgeable and less stereotypical about the Native world historically and today.

—Adrienne L. Smith (Cherokee/Muscogee-Creek)
Cultural Interpreter, NMAI on the National Mall

Illustrations: (Upper) Joba Chamberlain (Winnebago), pitching for the New York Yankees, May 28, 2008. Photo © Keith Allison, Wikipedia Commons

(Lower) The Quiz Show prototype. Photo by Mark Christal, NMAI

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