In her preface, Debo summarizes Geronimo’s significance in American history. Because of the length and detail involved in this biography, it was probably intended for a mature audience. The educational aspects of Geronimo, however. should be of interest to people both young and old.
The author’s personal interest in Geronimo stems from the prevalence of his name when she was growing up. Fortunately, Debo retains an objective view, showing no bias toward or against the Apaches. The author tries to avoid any sensationalism attached to Geronimo and to undo any stereotypes pertaining to him or to his tribe. Instead she reveals, as accurately as possible, the events significant to the importance of the Apaches in American history.
There is an almost mysterious tone throughout Geronimo because of the questions regarding many of the dates and locations of Apache events. For example, in chapter 1, “Goyahkla, the Child,” the first sentence states that the actual date of Geronimo’s birth is virtually unknown, despite his own testimony, which by its nature is not concerned with Western dates. This uncertainty continues throughout the book but does not become crucial in understanding the chronology of Geronimo’s life. Debo covers all aspects of Apache life, including family and religious traditions, recreational customs, and government structure. Important policies and treaties are explained throughout the text. Absent are any “cowboys and Indians” references that may tend to stereotype the Americans, Mexicans, or Native Americans during the outlining of the Apache battles.
The progression of Geronimo from a “sleepy baby” named Goyahkla, to a “red-handed murderer” during the 1880 massacre, to a piece of “commercial property” at Fort Sill clearly shows the uniqueness of Geronimo’s character. Debo devotes ample text to Geronimo’s personality in the last four chapters of the book. The chapter “Geronimo Is Seen as a Person” contains detailed accounts of people who dealt directly with Geronimo in both positive and negative...
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Although Debo lived during the time of Geronimo’s great public fame, she did not start to research his life until the 1950’s. Interrupted by other tasks, she later picked up where she had left off, finishing and revising her work and finally publishing it in 1976. Since Geronimo has been in print, however, the place of Native Americans in American society has not changed drastically. Books such as this one become especially important in documenting the history that was often left out of the history books.
After Geronimo’s death in 1909, many Apaches continued to regard him as their leader. Debo closes the last chapter, “Geronimo’s Final Surrender,” with a question for her readers to ponder: The author describes the feeling of Geronimo’s followers at his gravesite and then asks “Would this be the end of their trail, too?” By presenting the collected details of Geronimo’s experiences, Debo has helped the struggle of the Apaches to make a lasting impression on her audience. Geronimo serves as a valuable tool in teaching young adults the importance of the Apaches’ place in history.