Geronimo. The name looms large in the history of the American West, the American Indian legacy and the colorful narratives of popular culture. But who was he really, this figure who has come down to us through a century of legends and a handful of sepia-toned photographs?
A compelling answer to this question, and a fascinating glimpse at the man behind the myth, will be offered by Beyond Geronimo: The Apache Experience, opening February 11. Curated by the Heard Museum and presented by JP Morgan Chase, the exhibit is an Arizona Centennial Legacy Project, commemorating the 100th anniversary of Arizona statehood in 2012.
“We are fortunate to bring together collections from across the country,” said Heard Curator Janet Cantley, “including historical and ethnographic artifacts as well as contemporary artists’ works which help tell the story of the strength and endurance of the Apache people. A personal highlight has been working with individuals from the Apache communities in Arizona, New Mexico and Oklahoma.”
Born in 1829, the person the world came to know as Geronimo was a medicine man of the Apache people who became a fearless and infamous warrior in the Arizona Indian Wars of 1880-86. Following his capture in 1886, Geronimo spent the remainder of his life as a prisoner of war, making the best of his fate by becoming a showman, appearing publicly in Wild West shows, at the 1904 World’s Fair and in President Theodore Roosevelt’s 1905 inaugural parade. Never allowed to return to his homeland, Geronimo died at Fort Sill, Oklahoma on February 17, 1909.
Beyond Geronimo will bring this fascinating figure to life via personal possessions (moccasins, beaded awl case, bow and quiver), painted and photographic portraits, and other artifacts. The exhibit will also trace Geronimo’s passage into legend via dime novels, movie posters and ephemera. Using Geronimo’s life story as a window into the overall Apache experience, Beyond Geronimo will also portray other significant Apache events and leaders, such as Cochise, Naiche, Daklugie, Alchesay and others, through personal objects, photographs and works of art. Moving into our own time, the exhibit will include the works of 20th and 21st century artists reflecting the Apache experience. Among the celebrated contemporary American Indian artists represented are Allan Houser, Bob and Phillip Haozous, Vincent Kaydahzinne and Oliver Enjady.
Illuminating a dramatic and often misunderstood chapter in American history and culture, Beyond Geronimo: the Apache Experience is an exhibit that will be remembered for years to come.