The burial controversy
Transcripción: Carmen Muñoz
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In his time, he was the most feared man in a vast region spanning portions of two nations. The mere mention of is name brought chills.Townsmen, villagers an ranchers dreaded his possible coming, for where he passed he left death and destruction.
Some saw him as a divine instrument sent to punish them for their sins. To others he was a ruthless savage who needed to be hanged. To the U.S. Army, which grudgingly regarded him as perhaps the greatest guerrilla fighter who ever lived, he was a frustrating headache that lasted for five years.
He was a Chiricahua Apache named Goyakla,but the world know him as Geronimo.
Although he had been a thorn in the side of both Americans and Mexicans after about 1860, it was during the years from 1881 to 1886, that he became the epitome of defiance to those who encroached on the native land of the Apaches and forever altered their nomadic way of life. For this, Geronimo waged what to him was a war of survival. And he extracted a heavy price in lives on both sides of the border; just how many, no one really knows. His was a dogged and courageous fight , but it was a fight he could not win.
In september 1886, with a mere 16 warriors left and hounded by 5,000 U.S troops, he was the last Apache leader to abandon the war trail. In a desert canyon in southeast Arizona, only a few miles from the New México border, he surrendered and was sent into exile, first to Florida, then Alabama and finally to Fort Sill in Oklahoma. There, in 1909, he died, still a prisioner of war alfer 23 years. He was buried in Fort Still´s Apache cemetery, far from the montains of New Mexico and Arizona that he loved.
Now, even in death, Geronimo es embroiled in a controversy.
As part of new awareness of tribal culture, Apache leaders in Arizona, want his remains returned to the southwest. They believe that only in this way can the spirit of their famous leader be honored. The have also long objected to Geronimo´s body lying in a white man´s fort. To them, it symbolizes that he is still a prisoner.
But the proposal has brought bitter protests from the Mescalero Apaches of New Mexico, and the small group of Apaches who still live in the Oklahoma town of Apaches, north of Fort Still. They say tribal law forbids disturbing a grave. They also say that only Geronimo´s family has the right to determine where is body will rest, and they want it to remain at Fort Still.
Ned Anderson ,chairman of the 2-million-acre San Carlos Reservation in eastern Arizona, and Ronnie Lupe, leader of the neighboring White Mountain tribe on the equally vast fort Apache Reservation to the north, say the 18,000 Apaches they represent strongly support the proposal made more than a year ago.
Said Anderson: “ In times past, Geronimo was our greatest leader in war, and today, in peace, he is still our symbol of strength, keeping the Apaches together as one. He should be brought home; he gives us resiliency.
No matter how low we become spiritually or economically, we have always bounced back”
To test how his people felt about the issue, Anderson polled the 9,000 residents of San Carlos: “I got two negative responses”, he said.
Ronnie Lupe believe Geronimo was dishonored when is repeated requests to be allowed to return to his homeland were denied.”The outside world has been hostile to us ever since they forced Geronimo to leave”, Lupe said.
“His request to come back was never honored by the U.S. government. But we feel his spirit still lives whit us, especially when we figth to project.
By JAMES ABARR
IMPACT/24 de mayo de 1983/Albuquerque Journal Magazine/Colección Margarita Terrazas Perches