19'th Century Native American leader, war chief, and all-around bad hombre. Currently making headlines again due to the U.S. military's ill-considered decision to name their Bin Laden assassination plan after the man.

He had way cooler hair than Bin Laden, at any rate.

Just The Facts

  1. His original name was "Goyathlay" which means "one who yawns" - possibly the least badass name in the history of Apache nomenclature.
  2. He lived on the run, pursued by both American and Mexican troops, from 1858 to 1886; a rather astonishing feat that makes Bin Laden's decade on the run look like an afternoon at Office Depot by comparison.
  3. Parachutists often yell "Geronimo!" when jumping from planes, for reasons that remain unclear.

1. The Man, The Legend.

Despite being given a Chiricahua name that might seem to suggest a career as a librarian or chartered accountant, "he who yawns" became one of the most notoriously admired/feared/loathed Native Americans in history (maybe adapting the new name helped). After the murder of his wife, mother and young children in 1858 (by Spanish troops from Mexico) he developed a pretty all-consuming case of rage against both Whites and Mexicans. Imagine Charles Bronson crossed with Steven Seagal, but terrifyingly real.

For a huge span of the "Apache Wars" of the 1800's, Geronimo resisted both American and Mexican forces with a combination of brass-necked courage and bloodthirsty rage that earned him the title of "The Worst Indian that ever Lived." He also proved as difficult to capture as Grigori Rasputin was to kill

Later Days, Post-Capture

In 1886 Geronimo finally surrendered to U.S. authorities, although there is some controversy over the details of just how willing the big G's surrender actually was. He became something of a celebrity in later life, riding in President Roosevelt's 1905 inaugural parade, and making a guest appearance at the St. Louis fair of 1904 where, in a move that surely would have been the envy of Che Guevera had he lived, he sold Geronimo souveniers and photographs of himself. Like Mick Jagger, Geronimo appears to have been living proof that the establishment will embrace friggin' anybody if they just hang around long enough.

Also, rather interestingly, he apparently converted to Christianity in later life. He joined the Dutch Reformed Church in 1903. However, in a move that showed he wasn't too bothered about conforming to the anti-Indian stereotypes of future generations, he was kicked out in 1907 for gambling. He died in a horseback riding accident in 1909.

The Current Controversey

Present-day Native American groups were so outraged by the naming of the Bin Laden operation after Geronimo that they even called a Senate Indian Affairs committee meeting to discuss combating anti-Native American stereotypes. They probably have a point. Whatever you think of Geronimo and his exploits, he was undeniably a true badass who lived like a hunted animal for around three freakin' decades. By comparison, Osama was a spolied, slumming rich kid who got other jihadist fanboys to do the rough stuff for him, and spent the final years of his life in a heavily fortified, $250,000 compound with cable tv so he could watch news reports about himself. Why wouldn't Native American groups be annoyed at having one of thier most famous leaders compared to such a total pussy?

Extra Trivia

Dude hated Mexicans. You thought those anti-immigration Tea-Party types didn't care for the folks South of the U.S. border? Try this Geroni-quote on for size:

"I have killed many Mexicans; I do not know how many, for frequently I did not count them. Some of them were not worth counting. It has been a long time since then, but still I have no love for the Mexicans. With me they were always treacherous and malicious".

Damn. That's hate speech, G. You might want to tone it down a notch.