Monday, July 15, 2019

The Case Against Geronimo: His Flimsy Excuse

July 15, 2019
   Geronimo broke out four different times. The third time, General Crook mounted a large military expedition to go into Mexico and bring him back. With the wary blessing of Mexican authorities (they were not happy about American troops in their country for any reason). Now, after the fourth time, in 1886, Crook meets up with Geronimo at Canyon del los Embudos (Canyon of the Funnels) just across the line in Mexico. Lt. Bourke makes mental notes and after the meeting writes down the entire encounter.  Geronimo opens the parlay with a long speech. Here are the highlights:

General Crook: What have you to say; I have come all the way down from [Fort] Bowie.

Geronimo: I would like Concepcion to act as interpreter. (Geronimo is leery of having an interpreter who might twist what he says, as he believes Mickey Free and others did previously.)

Crook: All right, but all the interpreters must remain to act as checks on each other.

Geronimo: I want to talk first of the causes which led me to leave the Reservation. I was living quietly and contented, doing and thinking of no harm while at the Sierra Blanca (White Mountains). I don't know what harm I did to those, I mean‚ Chatto, Mickey Free and Lt. Davis. I was living peaceably and satisfied when people began to speak bad of me. I should be glad to know who started those stories. I was living peaceably with my family, having plenty to eat, sleeping well, taking care of my people and perfectly contented. I don't know where those bad stories first came from. There we were doing well and my people well. I was behaving well. I hadn't killed a horse or man, American or Indian. I don't know what was the matter with the people in charge of us. They knew this to be so and yet they said I was a bad man, and the worst man there‚ but what harm had I done? I was living peaceably and well but I did not leave on my own accord. Had I so left it would have been right to blame me, but as it is, blame those men who started this talk about me. Some time before I left, an Indian named Nadiskay had a talk with me. He said; They are going to arrest you. But I paid no attention to him, knowing that I had done no wrong; and the wife of Mangus, Huerco‚ told me that they were going to seize me and put me and Mangus in the guard house and I learned from the American and Apache soldiers, from Chatto and Mickey Free, that the Americans were going to arrest me and hang me and so I left. I would like to know who it was that gave the order to arrest me and hang me.

 Geronimo repeats the above refrains several more times, then he adds, "I was praying to the light and to the darkness, to God and to the Sun to let me live quietly there with my family. I don't know what the reason was that people should speak badly of me. I don't want to be blamed. The fault was not mine. Blame those three men. With them is the fault, and find out who it was that began that bad talk about me. I have several times asked for peace, but trouble has come from the Agents and interpreters. I don't want what has passed to happen again. Now I am going to tell you something else. The Earth-mother is listening to me and I hope that all may be so arranged that from now on there shall be no trouble and that we shall always have peace. Whenever we see you coming to where we are we think that it is God‚ you must count always with God. From this on I do not want that anything shall be told you about me [unintelligible] joke. Whenever I have broken out, it has always been on account of bad talk. From this on I hope that people will tell me nothing but the truth. From this on I want to do what is right and nothing else and I do not want you to believe any bad papers about me. I want the papers sent you to tell the truth about me, because I want to do what is right. Very often there are stories put in the newspapers that I am to be hanged. I don't want that any more. When a man tries to do right, such stories ought not to be printed in the newspapers. There are very few of my men left now. They have done some bad things but I want them all rubbed out now and let us never speak of them again. There are very few of us left. We think of our relations, brothers, brothers-in-law, fathers in law, etc. over on the Reservation and from this on we want to live at peace just as they are doing and to behave as they are behaving. Sometimes a man does something and men are sent out to bring in his head. I don't want such things to happen to us. I don't want that we should be killing each other.
What is the matter that you don't speak to me? I would be better if you would speak to me and look with a pleasant face. It would make better feeling. I would be glad if you did. I'd be better satisfied if you would talk to me once in a while. Why don't you look at me and smile at me? I am the same man; I have the same feet, legs and hands and the sun looks down on me a complete man. I want you [to] look and smile at me.

Crook: Let them (referring to the other Apache leaders present) finish their talk first.

Geronimo: I have not forgotten what you told me, although a long time has passed. I keep it in my memory. I am a complete man. Nothing has gone from my body. From here on I want to live at peace. Don't believe any bad talk you hear about me. The agents and the interpreters hear that somebody has done wrong and they blame it all on me. Don't believe what they say. I don't want any of this bad talk in the future. I don't want those men who talked this way about me to be my agents any more. I want good men to be my agents and interpreters; people who will talk right. I want the peace to be legal and good. Whenever I meet you I will talk good to you and you to me and peace is soon established; but when we go to the reservation you put agents and interpreters over us who do bad things. Perhaps they don't mind what you tell them because I do not believe you would tell them to do bad things to us. In the future, we don't want these bad men to be allowed near where we are to live. We don't want any more of that kind of bad talk. I don't want any man who will talk bad about me and tell lies, to be there, because I am going to try and live well and peaceably. I want to have a good man just over me. While living I want to live well. I know I have to die sometime, but even if the heavens were to fall on me, I want to do what is right. I think I am a good man but not the papers all over the world. They say I am a bad man; but it is a bad thing to say so about me. I never do wrong without a cause.
 Every day I am thinking how am I to talk to you to make you believe what I say and I think too that you are thinking of what you are to say to me.     There is one God looking down on us all. We are all children of the one God. God is listening to me. The sun, the darkness, the winds are all listening to what we now say. To prove to you that I am telling you the truth, remember I sent you word that I would come from a place far away to speak to you here and you see us now. Some have come on horseback and some on foot; If I were thinking bad, or if I had done bad, I would never have come here. If it had been my fault, would I have come so far to talk to you? I have told you all that has happened. I also have feared that I should never see Ka-e-at-en-a again, but here he is, and I want the past to be buried. I am glad to see Ka-e-at-en-a. I was afraid I should never see him again. That was one reason too why I left. I wish that Ka-e-at-en-a would be returned to us to live with his family. I now believe what I was told. Now I believe that all told me is true, because I see Ka-e-at-en-a again. I am glad to see him again, as I was told I should. We are all glad. My body feels good because I see Ka-e-at-en-a and my breathing is good. Now I can eat well, drink well, sleep well and be glad. I can go everywhere with good feeling. Now what I want is peace in good faith. Both you and I think well and think alike. Well we have talked enough and sat here long enough. I may have forgotten something, but if I remember it, I will tell you of it tonight, or tomorrow or some other time. I have finished for today but I'll have something more to say by and by.

Crook: I have heard what you have said. It seems very strange that more than forty men should be afraid of three. If that was a fact, that you left the reservation for that reason, why did you kill innocent people, sneaking all over the country to do it? What did those innocent people do to you that you should kill them, steal their horses and slip around in the rocks like coyotes?

Geronimo: We did not know what we had done to Davis, Mickey, Chatto and Nodiskay. [Geronimo keeps coming back to these four men for setting everything in motion]

Crook: But what has that to do with killing innocent people? There is not a week that you don't hear foolish stories in your own camp, but you are no child‚ you don't have to believe them. You promised me in the Sierra Madres that peace should last, but you have lied about [it]. All the Americanos said that you were lying when I brought you up there to the reservation and I have had a constant fight since with my own people to protect you from them. And the white people say that I am responsible for every one of those people who have been killed. When a man has lied to me once, I want some better proof than his own word before I can believe him again. The feeling against having you come back to the reservation had about died out, when you broke out again; but now it is worse than ever.

Geronimo: That's why I want to ask who it was that ordered that I should be arrested.

Crook: That's all bosh. There were no orders for any one to arrest you.

Geronimo: Perhaps those who were going to arrest me were under somebody else's orders?

Crook: Geronimo, you sent up some of your people to kill Chatto and Lt. Davis and then you started the story that they had killed them and then you got a great many of your people to go out.

Geronimo: That's not so. You know one of these days that it's not so.

Crook: Everything you did on the reservation is known. There is no use for you to try and talk nonsense. I am no child. You must make up your own mind whether you will stay out on the warpath or surrender unconditionally. If you stay out I'll keep after you and kill the last one, if it takes fifty years.

Geronimo: I am a man of my word. I am telling the truth and why I left the reservation.

Crook: You told me the same thing in the Sierra Madre, but you lied.

Geronimo: Then how do you want me to talk to you? I have but one mouth. I can't talk with my ears.

Crook: Your mouth talks too many ways.

   It goes on and on, with Geronimo repeating the same lame excuses and blaming the rumors by the same four men. It is not flattering to the warrior. And it's a tragic fact, that after this talk, Geronimo, Naiche and their men got whiskey and got so drunk, Naiche shot his wife in the leg while he was in a drunken stupor and they set the hillside where they were camped, on fire, so they escaped in the night and went on another killing spree where a couple dozen more innocent people were slaughtered for the thin reasons espoused above.

   Crook lost his job over this debacle and, somehow, Geronimo actually parlayed with his replacement, General Miles, and got a reprieve to go live in Florida. Of course, the local authorities in Arizona wanted him to hang for his many murders. That he not only lived, but prospered in captivity, then eventually became the unlikely symbol of a Freedom Fighter, fighting for his homeland, is a very, strange and weird American tale.

Daily Whip Out: "A Bloody Tale"

"History is a cruel trick played on the dead by the living."
—Old Vaquero Saying

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