Two hundred twenty-two years ago today, famed Apache chief Geronimo surrendered to U.S. and Mexican forces after 25 years of fighting. Now in mainstream culture his legend is reduced to jumping into pools or otherwise inanely leaping.
Do you want to make up for the brutal repression of a people and hundreds of years of neglect by learning why Geronimo is such an important historical and revolutionary – albeit ultimately unsuccessful – figure? Of course you do.
Oh, I’m sorry, did you say quote Wikipedia at length? Alright:
[Captain Henry ] Lawton’s official report dated September 9, 1886 sums up the actions of his unit and gives credit to a number of his troopers for their efforts. Geronimo gave credit to Lawton’s tenacity for wearing the Apaches down with constant pursuit. Geronimo and his followers had little or no time to rest or stay in one place. Completely worn out, the little band of Apaches returned to the U.S. with Lawton and officially surrendered to General Miles on September 4, 1886 at Skeleton Canyon, Arizona. …The debate over who Geronimo surrendered to goes on… [Source]
For many American Indian traditions, certainly the Chiricahua Apache among them, Geronimo is one of a handful of traditional leaders who fought the wave of U.S. expansion for as long as they could. For it, he was then held as a U.S. prisoner until his death in February 1909.
Oh and then after this embarassment, in 1918, Prescott Bush – the grandfather of current President George W. Bush – and others allegedly robbed his grave. No, seriously, it was part of some weird ritual for the famed, secretive Skull & Bones club at Yale University.
Our repayment by screaming his name when we jump into pools is related to the movie of the same name, according to Yahoo Answers – which is, yes, about as reliable as Wikipedia. It comes down to U.S. army personnel again.
In 1940, the United States’ first Parachute Test Platoon was formed. It consisted of 50 volunteers who trained in the sweltering heat of Georgia’s Fort Benning. The days were mighty hot, so the paratroopers wanted to stay cool in the evening. One night, Private Eberhardt and three friends watched the movie Geronimo at a local (air conditioned) theater.
After the film, the group discussed the jump they were to make the following morning. According to Howard, one paratrooper asked Eberhardt if he believed he could jump “without fear.” Eberhardt, eager to prove his toughness, said he’d show everyone he wasn’t afraid by yelling “Geronimo!” as he jumped. Eberhardt believed that if he had the presence of mind to remember the word, it would prove he wasn’t scared. [Source]