On this day in 1886, Apache chief Geronimo surrenders to U.S. government troops. For 30 years, the mighty Native American warrior had battled to protect his tribe’s homeland; however, by 1886 the Apaches were exhausted and hopelessly outnumbered. General Nelson Miles accepted Geronimo’s surrender, making him the last Indian warrior to formally give in to U.S. forces and signaling the end of the Indian Wars in the Southwest.
Geronimo was born in 1829 and grew up in what is present-day Arizona and Mexico. His tribe, the Chiricahua Apaches, clashed with non-Indian settlers trying to take their land. In 1858, Geronimo’s family was murdered by Mexicans. Seeking revenge, he later led raids against Mexican and American settlers. In 1874, the U.S. government moved Geronimo and his people from their land to a reservation in east-central Arizona. Conditions on the reservation were restrictive and harsh and Geronimo and some of his followers escaped. Over the next decade, they battled federal troops and launched raids on white settlements. During this time, Geronimo and his supporters were forced back onto the reservation several times. In May 1885, Geronimo and approximately 150 followers fled one last time. They were pursued into Mexico by 5,000 U.S. troops. In March 1886, General George Crook (1829–90) forced Geronimo to surrender; however, Geronimo quickly escaped and continued his raids. General Nelson Miles (1839–1925) then took over the pursuit of Geronimo, eventually forcing him to surrender that September near Fort Bowie along the Arizona-New Mexico border. Geronimo and a band of Apaches were sent to Florida and then Alabama, eventually ending up at the Comanche and Kiowa reservation near Fort Sill, Oklahoma Territory. There, Geronimo became a successful farmer and converted to Christianity. He participated in President Theodore Roosevelt’s inaugural parade in 1905. The Apache chief dictated his autobiography, published in 1906 as Geronimo’s Story of His Life. He died at Fort Sill on February 17, 1909.