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Geronimo the War Shaman

I recently re-purchased a copy of a book that I have read before. It is called Watch For Me on the Mountain by Forrest Carter. It is a story about Geronimo. I just read the first two chapters out loud to Suzanne. I had forgotten that they said Geronimo was a War Shaman. He would chant and dance alone with the spirits of the mountains. He could not be captured but only allowed himself to be captured in order to infiltrated enemy camps. He spoke little and was able to operate outside the bounds of time and space. The stories are amazing.

War was the one thing that kept the Apaches free for as long as they were. By the gun, knife and bow they fought to keep the bluecoats and Mexicans at bay. The Mexicans were purchasing land and settling in the valleys that had historically been Apache homelands. When the story begins, the Apaches were already confined in concentration camps ("reservations") in the desert. They couldn't grow food, and the bluecoats provided inadequate rations. The Apaches were demoralized, starving, and had lost faith in War to save them. So many Apaches had died fighting that there was bitterness against Geronimo too. The final straw was the fact that the bluecoats would not strike deals with the tribal people because in their law, Apaches were not people. Apaches could not be citizens. Apaches could not own property. Apaches were animals to them, and were best exterminated. The reservations on the desert really were concentration camps.

The first time I read this book was during a Grand Canyon river trip. My boyfriend at the time had just read it, and after reading the book he had not spoken for a week. He had squatted, naked up in the cliffs, watching the canyon and our camp.

At least now, in modern times, the Apache reservations in southern Arizona are in the mountains. And you had better mind your business if you go there. They are militant about protecting their little bit of the mountains. I know those reservations only because I have spent some time enjoying the Salt River, which flows along the border between the White Mountain and San Carlos Apache Reservations.

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