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Geronimo, His Own Story 4
Unwritten Laws of the Apaches

When an Indian has been wronged by a member of his tribe he may, if he does
not wish to settle the difficulty personally, make complaint to the
Chieftain. If he is unable to meet the offending parties in a personal
encounter, and disdains to make complaint, anyone may in his stead inform
the chief of this conduct, and then it becomes necessary to have an
investigation or trial. Both the accused and the accuser are entitled to
witnesses, and their witnesses are not interrupted in any way by questions,
but simply say what they wish to say in regard to the matter. The witnesses
are not placed under oath, because it is not believed that they will give
false testimony in a matter relating to their own people.
The chief of the tribe presides during these trials, but if it is a serious
offense he asks two or three leaders to sit with him. These simply determine
whether or not the man is guilty. If he is not guilty the matter is ended,
and the complaining party has forfeited his right to take personal
vengeance, for if he wishes to take vengeance himself, he must object to the
trial which would prevent it. If the accused is found guilty the injured
party fixes the penalty, which is generally confirmed by the chief and his

If any children are left orphans by the usage of war or otherwise, that is,
if both parents are dead, the chief of the tribe may adopt them or give them
away as he desires. In the case of outlawed Indians, they may, if they wish,
take their children with them, but if they leave the children with the
tribe, the chief decides what will be done with them, but no disgrace
attaches to the children.

We obtained our salt from a little lake in the Gila Mountains. This is a
very small lake of clear, shallow water, and in the center a small mound
arises above the surface of the water. The water is too salty to drink, and
the bottom of the lake is covered with a brown crust. When this crust is
broken cakes of salt adhere to it. These cakes of salt may be washed clear
in the water of this lake, but if washed in other water will dissolve.
When visiting this lake our people were not allowed to even kill game or
attack an enemy. All creatures were free to go and come without molestation.

To be admitted as a warrior a youth must have gone with the warriors of his
tribe four separate times on the war path.
On the first trip he will be given only very inferior food. With this he
must be contented without murmuring. On none of the four trips is he allowed
to select his food as the warriors do, but must eat such food as he is
permitted to have.

On each of these expeditions he acts as servant, cares for the horses, cooks
the food, and does whatever duties he should do without being told. He knows
what things are to be done, and without waiting to be told is to do them. He
is not allowed to speak to any warrior except in answer to questions or when
told to speak.

During these four wars he is expected to learn the sacred names of
everything used in war, for after the tribe enters upon the war path no
common names are used in referring to anything appertaining to war in any
way. War is a solemn religious matter.

If, after four expeditions, all the warriors are satisfied that the youth
has been industrious, has not spoken out of order, has been discreet in all
things, has shown courage in battle, has borne all hardships
uncomplainingly, and has exhibited no color of cowardice, or weakness of any
kind, he may by vote of the council be admitted as a warrior; but if any
warrior objects to him upon any account he will be subjected to further
tests, and if he meets these courageously, his name may again be proposed.
When he has proven beyond question that he can bear hardships without
complaint, and that he is a stranger to fear, he is admitted to the council
of the warriors in the lowest rank. After this there is no formal test for
promotions, but by common consent he assumes a station on the battlefield,
and if that position is maintained with honor, he is allowed to keep it, and
may be asked, or may volunteer, to take a higher station, but no warrior
would presume to take a higher station unless he had assurance from the
leaders of the tribe that his conduct in the first position was worthy of

From this point upward the only election by the council in formal assembly
is the election of the chief.

Old men are not allowed to lead in battle, but their advice is always
respected. Old age means loss of physical power and is fatal to active

All dances are considered religious ceremonies and are presided over by a
chief and medicine men. They are of a social or military nature, but never
without some sacred characteristic.

Every summer we would gather the fruit of the yucca, grind and pulverize it
and mold it into cakes; then the tribe would be assembled to feast, to sing,
and to give praises to Usen. Prayers of Thanksgiving were said by all. When
the dance began the leaders bore these cakes and added words of praise
occasionally to the usual tone sounds of the music.

After a council of the warriors had deliberated, and had prepared for the
war path, the dance would be started. In this dance there is the usual
singing led by the warriors and accompanied with the beating of the
"esadadene," but the dancing is more violent, and yells and war whoops
sometimes almost drown the music. Only warriors participated in this dance.

After a war party has returned, a modification of the war dance is held. The
warriors who have brought scalps from the battles exhibit them to the tribe,
and when the dance begins these scalps, elevated on poles or spears, are
carried around the camp fires while the dance is in progress. During this
dance there is still some of the solemnity of the war dance. There are yells
and war-whoops, frequently accompanied by discharge of firearms, but there
is always more levity than would be permitted at a war dance. After the
scalp dance is over the scalps are thrown away. No Apache would keep them,
for they are considered defiling.

In the early part of September, 1905, I announced among the Apaches that my
daughter, Eva, having attained womanhood, should now put away childish
things and assume her station as a young lady. At a dance of the tribe she
would make her debut, and then, or thereafter, it would be proper for a
warrior to seek her hand in marriage. Accordingly, invitations were issued
to all Apaches, and many Comanches and Kiowas, to assemble for a grand dance
on the green by the south bank of Medicine Creek, near the village of
Naiche, former chief of the Chokonen Apaches, on the first night of full
moon in September. The festivities were to continue for two days and nights.
Nothing was omitted in the preparation that would contribute to the
enjoyment of the guests or the perfection of the observance of the religious

To make ready for the dancing the grass on a large circular space was
closely mowed.

The singing was led by Chief Naiche, and I, assisted by our medicine men,
directed the dance.

First Eva advanced from among the women and danced once around the camp
fire; then, accompanied by another young woman, she again advanced and both
danced twice around the camp fire; then she and two other young ladies
advanced and danced three times around the camp fire; the next time she and
three other young ladies advanced and danced four times around the camp
fire; this ceremony lasted about one hour. Next the medicine men entered,
stripped to the waist, their bodies painted fantastically, and danced the
sacred dances. They were followed by clown dancers who amused the audience

Then the members of the tribe joined hands and danced in a circle around the
camp fire for a long time. All the friends of the tribe were asked to take
part in this dance, and when it was ended many of the old people retired,
and the "lovers' dance" began.

The warriors stood in the middle of the circle and the ladies, two-and-two,
danced forward and designated some warrior to dance with them. The dancing
was back and forth on a line from the center to the outer edge of the
circle. The warrior faced the two ladies, and when they danced forward to
the center he danced backward: then they danced backward to the outer edge
and he followed facing them. This lasted two or three hours and then the
music changed. Immediately the warriors assembled again in the center of the
circle, and this time each lady selected a warrior as a partner. The manner
of dancing was as before, only two instead of three danced together. During
this dance, which continued until daylight, the warrior (if dancing with a
maiden) could propose marriage, and if the maiden agreed, he would consult
her father soon afterward and make a bargain for her.

Upon all such occasions as this, when the dance is finished, each warrior
gives a present to the lady who selected him for a partner and danced with
him. If she is satisfied with the present he says good-by, if not, the
matter is referred to someone in authority (medicine man or chief), who
determines the question of what is a proper gift.

For a married lady the value of the present should be two or three dollars;
for a maiden the present should have a value of not less than five dollars.
Often, however, the maiden receives a very valuable present.

During the "lovers' dance" the medicine men mingle with the dancers to keep
out evil spirits.

Perhaps I shall never again have cause to assemble our people to dance, but
these social dances in the moonlight have been a large part of our enjoyment
in the past, and I think they will not soon be discontinued, at least I hope

At the World's Fair

WHEN I was at first asked to attend the St. Louis World's Fair I did not
wish to go. Later, when I was told that I would receive good attention and
protection, and that the President of the United States said that it would
be all right, I consented. I was kept by parties in charge of the Indian
Department, who had obtained permission from the President. I stayed in this
place for six months. I sold my photographs for twenty-five cents, and was
allowed to keep ten cents of this for myself. I also wrote my name for ten,
fifteen, or twenty-five cents, as the case might be, and kept all of that
money. I often made as much as two dollars a day, and when I returned I had
plenty of money -more than I had ever owned before.

Many people in St. Louis invited me to come to their homes, but my keeper
always refused. Every Sunday the President of the Fair sent for me to go to
a wild west show. I took part in the roping contests before the audience.
There were many other Indian tribes there, and strange people of whom I had
never heard.

When people first came to the World's Fair they did nothing but parade up
and down the streets. When they got tired of this they would visit the
shows. There were many strange things in these shows. The Government sent
guards with me when I went, and I was not allowed to go anywhere without

In one of the shows some strange men with red caps had some peculiar swords,
and they seemed to want to fight. Finally their manager told them they might
fight each other. They tried to hit each other over the head with these
swords, and I expected both to be wounded or perhaps killed, but neither one
was harmed. They would be hard people to kill in a hand-to-hand fight.

In another show there was a strange-looking negro. The manager tied his
hands fast, then tied him to a chair. He was securely tied, for I looked
myself, and I did not think it was possible for him to get away. Then the
manager told him to get loose.

He twisted in his chair for a moment, and then stood up; the ropes were
still tied but he was free. I do not understand how this was done. It was
certainly a miraculous power, because no man could have released himself by
his own efforts.

In another place a man was on a platform speaking to the audience; they set
a basket by the side of the platform and covered it with red calico; then a
woman came and got into the basket, and a man covered the basket again with
the calico; then the man who was speaking to the audience took a long sword
and ran it through the basket, each way, and then down through the cloth
cover. I heard the sword cut through the woman's body, and the manager
himself said she was dead; but when the cloth was lifted from the basket she
stepped out, smiled, and walked off the stage. I would like to know how she
was so quickly healed, and why the wounds did not kill her.

I have never considered bears very intelligent, except in their wild habits,
but I had never before seen a white bear. In one of the shows a man had a
white bear that was as intelligent as a man. He would do whatever he was
told -carry a log on his shoulder, just as a man would; then, when he was
told, would put it down again. He did many other things, and seemed to know
exactly what his keeper said to him. I am sure that no grizzly bear could be
trained to do these things.

One time the guards took me into a little house that had four windows. When
we were seated the little house started to move along the ground. Then the
guards called my attention to some curious things they had in their pockets.
Finally they told me to look out, and when I did so I was scared, for our
little house had gone high up in the air, and the people down in the Fair
Grounds looked no larger than ants. The men laughed at me for being scared;
then they gave me a glass to look through (I often had such glasses which I
took from dead officers after battles in Mexico and elsewhere), and I could
see rivers, lakes and mountains. But I had never been so high in the air,
and I tried to look into the sky. There were no stars, and I could not look
at the sun through this glass because the brightness hurt my eyes. Finally I
put the glass down, and as they were all laughing at me, I, too, began to
laugh. Then they said, "Get out!" and when I looked we were on the street
again. After we were safe on the land I watched many of these little houses
going up and coming down, but I cannot understand how they travel. They are
very curious little houses.

One day we went into another show, and as soon as we were in it, it changed
into night. It was real night, for I could feel the damp air; soon it began
to thunder, and the lightnings flashed; it was real lightning, too, for it
struck just above our heads. I dodged and wanted to run away but I could not
tell which way to go in order to get out. The guards motioned me to keep
still and so I stayed. In front of us were some strange little people who
came out on the platform; then I looked up again and the clouds were all
gone, and I could see stars shining. The little people on the platform did
not seem in earnest about anything they did; so I only laughed at them. All
the people around where we sat seemed to be laughing at me.

We went into another place and the manager took us into a little room that
was made like a cage; then everything around us seemed to be moving; soon
the air looked blue, then there were black clouds moving with the wind.
Pretty soon it was clear outside; then we saw a few thin white clouds; then
the clouds grew thicker, and it rained and hailed with thunder and
lightning. Then the thunder retreated and a rainbow appeared in the
distance; then it became dark, the moon rose and thousands of stars came
out. Soon the sun came up, and we got out of the little room. This was a
good show, but it was so strange and unnatural that I was glad to be on the
streets again.

We went into one place where they made glassware. I had always thought that
these things were made by hand, but they are not. The man had a curious
little instrument, and whenever he would blow through this into a little
blaze the glass would take any shape he wanted it to. I am not sure, but I
think that if I had this kind of an instrument I could make whatever I
wished. There seems to be a charm about it. But I suppose it is very
difficult to get these little instruments, or people would have them. The
people in this show were so anxious to buy the things the man made that they
kept him so busy he could not sit down all day long. I bought many curious
things in there and brought them home with me.

At the end of one of the streets some people were getting into a clumsy
canoe, upon a kind of shelf, and sliding down into the water. They seemed to
enjoy it, but it looked too fierce for me. If one of these canoes had gone
out of its path the people would have been sure to get hurt or killed.

There were some little brown people at the Fair that United States troops
captured recently on some islands far away from here.

They did not wear much clothing, and I think that they should not have been
allowed to come to the Fair. But they themselves did not seem to know any
better. They had some little brass plates, and they tried to play music with
these, but I did not think it was music it was only a rattle. However, they
danced to this noise and seemed to think they were giving a fine show.

I do not know how true the report was, but I heard that the President sent
them to the Fair so that they could learn some manners, and when they went
home teach their people how to dress and how to behave.

I am glad I went to the Fair. I saw many interesting things and learned much
of the white people. They are a very kind and peaceful people. During all
the time I was at the Fair no one tried to harm me in any way. Had this been
among the Mexicans I am sure I should have been compelled to defend myself

I wish all my people could have attended the Fair.


In our primitive worship only our relations to Usen and the members of our
tribe were considered as appertaining to our religious responsibilities. As
to the future state, the teachings of our tribe were not specific, that is,
we had no definite idea of our relations and surroundings in after life. We
believed that there is a life after this one, but no one ever told me as to
what part of man lived after death. I have seen many men die; I have seen
many human bodies decayed, but I have never seen that part which is called
the spirit; I do not know what it is; nor have I yet been able to understand
that part of the Christian religion. We held that the discharge of one's
duty would make his future life more pleasant, but whether that future life
was worse than this life or better, we did not know, and no one was able to
tell us. We hoped that in the future life family and tribal relations would
be resumed. In a way we believed this, but we did not know it.

Once when living in San Carlos Reservation an Indian told me that while
lying unconscious on the battlefield he had actually been dead, and had
passed into the spirit land.

First he came to a mulberry tree growing out from a cave in the ground.
Before this cave a guard was stationed, but when he approached without fear
the guard let him pass. He descended into the cave, and a little way back
the path widened and terminated in a perpendicular rock many hundreds of
feet wide and equal in height. There was not much light, but by peering
directly beneath him he discovered a pile of sand reaching from the depths
below to within twenty feet of the top of the rock where he stood. Holding
to a bush, he swung off from the edge of the rock and dropped onto the sand,
sliding rapidly down its steep side into the darkness. He landed in a narrow
passage running due westward through a canyon which gradually grew lighter
and lighter until he could see as well as if it had been daylight; but there
was no sun. Finally he came to a section of this passage that was wider for
a short distance, and then closing abruptly continued in a narrow path; just
where this section narrowed two huge serpents were coiled, and rearing their
heads, hissed at him as he approached, but he showed no fear, and as soon as
he came close to them they withdrew quietly and let him pass. At the next
place, where the passage opened into a wider section, were two grizzly bears
prepared to attack him, but when he approached and spoke to them they stood
aside and he passed unharmed. He continued to follow the narrow passage, and
the third time it widened and two mountain lions crouched in the way, but
when he had approached them without fear and had spoken to them they also
withdrew. He again entered the narrow passage. For some time he followed
this emerging into a fourth section beyond which he could see nothing: the
further walls of this section were clashing together at regular intervals
with tremendous sounds, but when he approached them they stood apart until
he had passed. After this he seemed to be in a forest, and following the
natural draws which led westward soon came into a green valley where there
were many Indians camped and plenty of game. He said that he saw and
recognized many whom he had known in this life, and that he was sorry when
he was brought back to consciousness.

I told him if I knew this to be true I would not want to live another day,
but by some means, if by my own hands, I would die in order to enjoy these
pleasures. I myself have lain unconscious on the battlefield, and while in
that condition have had some strange thoughts or experiences; but they are
very dim and I cannot recall them well enough to relate them. Many Indians
believed this warrior, and I cannot say that he did not tell the truth. I
wish I knew that what he said is beyond question true. But perhaps it is as
well that we are not certain.

Since my life as a prisoner has begun I have heard the teachings of the
white man's religion, and in many respects believe it to be better than the
religion of my fathers. However, I have always prayed, and I believe that
the Almighty has always protected me.

Believing that in a wise way it is good to go to church, and that
associating with Christians would improve my character, I have adopted the
Christian religion. I believe that the church has helped me much during the
short time I have been a member. I am not ashamed to be a Christian, and I
am glad to know that the President of the United States is a Christian, for
without the help of the Almighty I do not think he could rightly judge in
ruling so many people. I have advised all of my people who are not
Christians, to study that religion, because it seems to me the best religion
in enabling one to live right.

Hopes for the Future

I am thankful that the President Of the United States has given me
permission to tell my story. I hope that he and those in authority under him
will read my story and judge whether my people have been rightly treated.

There is a great question between the Apache and the Government. For twenty
years we have been held prisoners of war under a treaty which was made with
General Miles, on the part of the United States Government, and myself as
the representative of the Apaches. That treaty has not at all times been
properly observed by the Government, although at the present time it is
being more nearly fulfilled on their part the heretofore. In the treaty with
General Miles we agreed to go to a place outside of Arizona and learn to
live as the white people do. I think that my people are now capable of
living in accordance with the laws of the United States, and we would, of
course, like to have the liberty to return to that land which is ours by
divine right. We are reduced in numbers, and having learned how to cultivate
the soil would not require so much ground as was formerly necessary. We do
not ask all of the land which the Almighty gave us in the beginning, but
that we may have sufficient lands there to cultivate. What we do not need we
are glad for the white men to cultivate.

We are now held on Comanche and Kiowa lands, which are not suited to our
needs-these lands and this climate are suited to the Indians who originally
inhabited this country, of course, but our people are decreasing in numbers
here, and will continue to decrease unless they are allowed to return to
their native land. Such a result is inevitable.

There is no climate or soil which, to my mind, is equal to that of Arizona.
We could have plenty of good cultivating land, plenty of grass, plenty of
timber and plenty of minerals in that land which the Almighty created for
the Apaches. It is my land, my home, my fathers' land, to which I now ask to
be allowed to return. I want to spend my last days there, and be buried
among those mountains. If this could be I might die in peace, feeling that
my people, placed in their native homes, would increase in numbers, rather
than diminish as at present, and that our name would not become extinct.

I know that if my people were placed in that mountainous region lying around
the head waters of the Gila River they would live in peace and act according
to the will of the President. They would be prosperous and happy in tilling
the soil and learning the civilization of the white men, whom they now
respect. Could I but see this accomplished, I think I could forget all the
wrongs that I have ever received, and die a contented and happy old man. But
we can do nothing in this matter ourselves-we must wait until those in
authority choose to act. If this cannot be done during my lifetime-if I must
die in bondage- I hope that the remnant of the Apache tribe may, when I am
gone, be granted the one privilege which they request-to return to Arizona.