The Odyssey of Geronimo
Sonora, Mexico, 1886. On an isolated mountain, Geronimo and a dwindling and hunted band of Apaches are hiding from both the Mexican and American armies. Geronimo is his tribe’s medicine man – Di-yen – not a chief as many of his enemies believe. When they are approached by scouts from the U. S. Army with an offer of peace, Geronimo, his chief, and the leading men agree to surrender in hopes of being reunited with their families, who are in Florida.
The surrender terms are never properly kept, and the hated yet famous medicine man begins an odyssey of captivity which ensues over decades. After a tortuous journey inside closed cars on an “iron wagon,” the Apaches arrive in Florida, where the climate and landscape seem alien and hostile to them. They all miss their homeland in Arizona, but none more than Geronimo, who yearns to return there if only to die. They are shuffled from place to place and given small parcels of land to work before ending up in Oklahoma. Apache men traditionally are expected only to hunt, raid and make war. Everything else, including growing crops, is women’s work. However, Geronimo’s fame enables him to make money by selling autographs, pictures and trinkets for ultimately thousands of dollars. He outlives his wives and children, to his dismay, before dying a welcome death in 1909.
Told in the first person from Geronimo’s view, the protagonist never comes across as likeable, but it is impossible not to respect this genuine American legend. The ferocity and violence of the times are graphically described, as is the heartbreak of disease, death and disruption of the Apache families. This novel is a moving story and essential American history. Recommended.