February 17, 2009 marks the one hundredth anniversary of the death of Geronimo at the Fort Sills reservation after 23 years of incarceration by the U.S. government in Florida, Alabama, and, finally, Oklahoma. Geronimo has mostly been portrayed in popular lore as a savage and murderous renegade who needed to be hunted down and caputured or killed to protect innocent white settlers. The U.S. government so feared him that it was only after his death that Chirichua Apaches were permitted to return to the Southwest. Even so, American culture, despite its strains of wholesome righteousness, esteems the outlaw and renegade, and Geronimo has held a fascination, accordingly, even for non-Natives. For the Apache, he endures as a source of pride, outlasting all that was taken from them, for his own fierce pride and resistance to conquest.
On December 30, 2008, the San Carlos Apache Tribe will break ground on a memorial to Gernonimo, a monument it plans to complete and unveil on the date of the coming anniversary. For the ground breaking, the tribal heads of every Apache tribe will be present, a congregation of Apache leaders not seen since the height of the Apache Wars in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. Julia and I have been invited by Wendlser Nosie Sr., chairman of the San Carlos Apache Reservation and an Apache of Chirichua descent, to attend the groundbreaking at Old San Carlos, the original foundation site of the reservation in 1871. We will report on the event in the coming days.