Today in 1886, Apache leader Geronimo surrenders to U.S. government troops. For 30 years, the Native American warrior had battled to protect his tribe’s homeland; however, by 1886 the Apaches were exhausted and hopelessly outnumbered. General Nelson Miles accepted Geronimo’s surrender, making him the last Native American warrior to formally give in to U.S. forces and signalling the end of the Indian Wars in the Southwest.
Geronimo was born in 1829 and grew up in what is present-day Arizona & Mexico. His tribe, the Chiricahua Apaches, clashed with non-Native settlers trying to take their land. In 1858, Geronimo’s family was murdered by Mexicans. Seeking revenge, he later led raids against Mexican and American settlers. In 1874 the U.S. government moved Geronimo and his people from their land to a reservation in east-central Arizona. Conditions on the reservation were restrictive and harsh & Geronimo & some of his followers escaped.
Over the next decade, they battled federal troops and launched raids on white settlements. During this time, Geronimo were forced back onto the reservation several times. In May 1885, Geronimo and approximately 150 followers fled one last time. They were pursued into Mexico by 5,000 troops. In March 1886, General George Crook forced Geronimo to surrender; however, Geronimo quickly escaped and continued his raids. General Nelson Miles then took over the pursuit of Geronimo, eventually forcing him to surrender near Fort Bowie along the Arizona-New Mexico border.
Geronimo ended up residing in Oklahoma and became a successful farmer and converted to Christianity. He participated in President Theodore Roosevelt’s inaugural parade in 1905. He died at Fort Sill in 1909.
In the USPS serial “Legends of the West”, a 29¢ Geronimo postage stamp was issued in 1994.