Anyone who writes an autobiography may be expected to present himself or herself in a favorable light, and Geronimo certainly does so: He describes himself simply as a person who wanted to be left alone to live his own life and who was forced to adopt violent measures against those who would interfere with him. Geronimo omits the point that not only he, but all the Apaches of the Southwest, had been feared and hated for many years by other Native American tribes long before United States citizens and Mexican troops appeared to pressure them out of their homes and way of life. The fact is that the Apaches were not pleasant people.
The Apaches were not merely hunter-gatherers but raiders who regarded everything that they came across, even that which belonged to others, as theirs by right. They were experts at guerrilla warfare and were able to hide in the desert and mountains for weeks, killing and eating their mounts when horses became an impediment, while their soldier opponents were burdened with pack trains and equipment that were easily spotted from miles away. Not surprisingly, their pursuers were helped by more peaceful Native American tribes who were just as happy to have the Apaches subdued as were the settlers. Even on the reservation, Apache arrogance caused trouble: Men beat their wives and cut off the ends of noses of women whom they thought unfaithful to their husbands. One of the key Native Americans who helped to track down Geronimo was a...
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Geronimo is an important book in spite of its author’s bias simply because it is a firsthand account by a Native American warrior leader. Few war chiefs lived to tell their stories: Victorio, an Apache even more feared than Geronimo, died in battle, and Sioux leaders Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull were murdered. Simply to have the personal story of one whom so many wished dead is remarkable.
Furthermore, Geronimo’s book provides an important answer to those who saw the Native American leader as a bloodthirsty savage and nothing else. Geronimo’s account not only of his own life but also of the history of his people shows that his actions grew out of a definite cultural tradition—even if that tradition did not square with the requirements of civilization—and that Geronimo was not a lone renegade but a representative of his people’s viewpoint. Geronimo is crucial for those who would understand Apache culture, both in the nineteenth century and later.