Final Days of Native American Geronimo

About the final days of Native American Geronimo, biography and history.


GERONIMO, U.S. Chiricahua Apache warrior

Died: Apache hospital, Fort Sill, Okla., Feb. 17, 1909, 6:15 A.M.

The rugged old guerrilla fighter, confined with his tribespeople under longtime "house arrest," had lived on the army post at Fort Sill for 15 years. Here he became a prosperous farmer with a sizable bank account but also took advantage of his notoriety by selling handicrafts and photos of himself. Although he grew increasingly absentminded in his 80th year, never far from his mind was the futile hope that the U.S. government would let him return to his Arizona homeland to die. A week before his death, Geronimo rode to a store in Lawton, Okla., that sold bows and arrows and paid a soldier to buy him some illegal whiskey. The next morning neighbors found the intoxicated Apache lying partly in a creek, where he had fallen from his horse while riding home during the night. The severe cold that resulted turned to pneumonia on Feb. 15, but Geronimo's wife and the old women who cared for him at first refused to let an army ambulance take him to the Apache hospital on the post because too many Apaches had never returned from that "death house." However, he was finally escorted by an army scout to the hospital, where he held out for two more days, waiting for the arrival of his son and daughter, who attended Chilocco Indian School. In a state of delirium, the old warrior relived the brutal 1858 Mexican massacre of his first wife, mother, and small children. He also seemed tormented by guilt over his refusal to embrace Christianity, which had been drummed at him for years by Dutch Reformed Church missionaries. Now it was too late for conversion. By the evening of Feb. 16, Geronimo's children had still not arrived. Tribesmen sat by his bed through the night as he sank rapidly; "I was sitting beside him holding his hand when he died," said his devoted friend Asa Daklugie. Summoned by letter instead of telegraph by a thoughtless officer, his children arrived the next day.

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