remembering Geronimo

I had that poster on my walls for years. Yes, that poster. The one of Geronimo on one knee, holding a rifle. His face stern. His gaze steady. He became a treasured symbol. I lost that poster and have kept an eye out for another ever since.

I originally bought that poster because of an account of his life that I read years before. It ran counter to every Hollywood stereotype about Geronimo, of the Apache, of the great white myth of western settlement. He was a man who as a youth could run at a trot nearly all day. He survived on the land in the arid southwest with only a knife. He was a traditional man who had honour.

When the U.S. government herded his and other Apache peoples onto the San Carlos reservation, he went along… for awhile. After putting up with the degrading treatment of the U.S. government, he left the reservation along with 35 men and 80 women and children. The U.S. sent 5,000 troops to haul Geronimo and the others back onto the reservation. They avoided capture for five months, until Geronimo surrendered.

The story I read spoke to the dehumanizing, insulting treatment that he endured; of lies and broken promises. While Geronimo may have died of pneumonia, some said he really died of a broken heart.

This image was light years from Hollywood’s, and American pop culture’s portrayal of a savage renegade. To me, he represented all that was proud, heroic and good about the traditional Apache.

Indian Country Today has a story on ceremonies that mark the 100th year since Geronimo’s death.



Filed under Aboriginal peoples, Indigenous peoples, Indigenous rights

4 responses to “remembering Geronimo

  1. KevinG

    I apologize for spamming you comments but I don’t know your email address and would be interested in your thoughts on this:

    On Thursday morning, de Jong made an impassioned plea to the chiefs attending the summit to support the principles laid out in a discussion paper he presented to them.

    Those principles included officially recognizing that “aboriginal rights and title exist in British Columbia throughout the territory of each Indigenous Nation that is the proper right and title holder, without requirement of proof of claim.”

    Essentially, the proposed legislation would recognize the existence of First Nations, with their own laws, governments and territories and title to the land.

    “You shouldn’t be required to stand in a court and call evidence of the rich history of your culture and your centuries of presence in this part of the world,” de Jong told the summit.


  2. shmohawk

    I have been up to my eyeballs on year-end of contract stuff. I heard about this, but I haven’t been able to read anything on it. I do know that some – not all – of the Indian groups in B.C. like this. Others are suspicious that this is just a another way to get the Indians to commit to something that will turn ugly later on. Personally, I’m not sure that Campbell’s epiphany on Indian rights, sovereignty, and title in the province is genuine. I don’t see how a province can create policy or pass legislation on such things when the argument is that it isn’t the province’s (or Canada’s) land to begin with until they agree to share it and its bounty thru treaty. Then again, I’ve watched as Ontario (supposedly much more experienced and progressive) has dragged its heels just as badly as the Federal government in Caledonia and the land question there. Same questions, oppoiste end of the country, different tactics and strategy.

    Here in Quebec, this just wound up in my Inbox:

    WENDAKE, QC, March 6 /CNW Telbec/ – The Chief of the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador (AFNQL), Ghislain Picard, was extremely shocked to read the newspaper article entitled The RLTP threatened by the Innu, written by Julien Cabana and published in the Journal de Québec, last March 5. “This article is biased, devoid of all objectivity and replete with racist innuendoes about the Innu Nation” stated AFNQL Chief Picard, who is considering lodging a complaint with the Quebec Press Council.

    The AFNQL is outraged not only by the contents of the news report, but also by the tone and level of disdain for the Innu people and their rights. “After reading this article, I have no doubt that the author has failed to understand Innu rights, that he rejects them and that he totally endorses the positions of the Association of Public Land Tenants (Regroupement des
    locataires des terres publiques)”, stated Chief Picard. He also explained that the Innu in Sept-Iles have often been victims of insults and of threats from groups that are against a possible treaty between the Government and the Innu.

    The Innu and their Rights

    Regardless of what Julien Cabana and the RLTP may think, the public lands of the North Shore belong to the Innu Assi. This is the ancestral land of the Innu Nation that has non extinguished title and ancestral rights to this land. This has been reconfirmed by numerous judgments of the Supreme Court of Canada, which has also confirmed the obligation of Governments to negotiate a Treaty or Agreement that will formally recognize the exercise of these rights. Until such a Treaty is adopted, Governments have the obligation to consult and accommodate the Innu regarding any project that may potentially have an impact on their rights and title. “The Innu of Uashat mak Mani-Utenam have rights and title that will inevitably, in the near future, be formally recognized by Governments and Courts. It is therefore completely natural to seek to protect this title and to ensure that it is not negatively impacted. It is a question of justice and of common sense” stated the AFNQL Chief.

    The AFNQL also wishes to point out that Quebec media and journalists have an obligation to be objective. Given the tension that often characterizes the relations between the Innu and the Québécois in the Sept-Iles region, journalists must avoid playing the racist and intolerance game. After the recent editorial by Richard Martineau (“What the Phoque!”), the AFNQL has serious concerns about the professionalism of some journalists and believes that it is essential to inform the media about Aboriginal issues in Quebec.

    So one wishes the Federal government of Canada would actually do something honourable for a change and actually act to protect the rights of Indigenous peoples regardless the province instead of constantly setting one group or another after them to undermine those rights. So right now, I can hope that Campbell’s change in heart is genuine, be prepared for yet another fight against the legalized theft of Indigenous lands in Quebec, and hope for a peaceful settlement and real change in Ontario.

  3. KevinG

    I can understand the cynicism: there’s a good bit of history to support it.

    I don’t know Campbell personally but people whose opinions I respect do and they say his conversion is genuine. It will be interesting to watch.

  4. shmohawk

    I haven’t been able to get online much these days. I’ll just say one thing about Campbell and BC’s moves: It fits right in with the Federal Government’s constant attempts to dump responsibility for Indians on the provinces. BC sees this as a way to break the legal logjam on land rights and open the way for development. The Indian nations out there that support Campbell look to be part of the deals and benefit financially. They may also be willing to sacrifice their sovereignty (in the international sense) to do so. That’s up to them. But the Feds would love to see nothing better than this – a capitulation on Indigenous rights that they can claim that it never existed in the first place and aren’t those BC Indians just so accommodating?

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