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“A Conference with General Crook”

by Britton Davis

In his book The Truth About Geronimo, Britton Davis includes a version of a transcription of a conference held in 1886 between Geronimo and his warriors and General Crook.

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CONFERENCE held March 25 and 27, 1886, at Cañon De Los Embudos (Cañon of the Funnels), 20 Miles SSE of San Bernardino Springs, Mexico, Between General Crook and the Hostile Chiricahua Chiefs.

First Day.

PRESENT: Geronimo, Catle, Chihuahua, Natchez, Captains Roberts and Bourke, Lieutenants Maus, Faison, and Shipp, Dr. Davis, Mr. Strauss, Mr. Moore, Mr. Daly, Mr. Fly, Ka-e-te-na, Alchisay, Charlie Roberts, Interpreters Concepción, José Maria, Antonio Bresias, Mr. Montoya.

GENERAL CROOK. What have you to say? I have come all the way down from Bowie.

GERONIMO. I would like Concepción to act as interpreter.

GENERAL CROOK. All right, but all the interpreters must remain to act as checks on each other.

Council Between Gen. Crook and Geronimo, Sonora, Mexico, 1886“Council Between Gen. Crook and Geronimo, Sonora, Mexico, 1886,” C. S. Fly (Photographer)

GERONIMO. I want to talk first of the causes which led me to leave the reservation. I was living quietly and contented, doing and thinking of no harm, while at the Sierra Blanca. I don't know what harm I did to those three men, Chato, Mickey Free, and Lieutenant Davis. I was living peaceably and satisfied when people began to speak bad of me. I should be glad to know who started those stories. I was living peaceably with my family, having plenty to eat, sleeping well, taking care of my people, and perfectly contented. I don't know where those bad stories first came from.

There we were doing well and my people well. I was behaving well. I hadn't killed a horse or man, American or Indian. I don't know what was the matter with the people in charge of us. They knew this to be so, and yet they said I was a bad man and the worst man there; but what harm had I done? I was living peaceably and well, but I did not leave on my own accord. Had I so left it would have been right to blame me; but as it is, blame those men who started this talk about me.

“I learned...that the Americans were going to arrest me and hang me, and so I left.”

Some time before I left an Indian named Wodiskay had a talk with me. He said, "They are going to arrest you," but I paid no attention to him, knowing that I had done no wrong; and the wife of Mangus, Huera, told me that they were going to seize me and put me and Mangus in the guard-house, and I learned from the American and Apache soldiers, from Chato, and Mickey Free, that the Americans were going to arrest me and hang me, and so I left.

I would like to know now who it was that gave the order to arrest me and hang me. I was living peaceably there with my family under the shade of the trees, doing just what General Crook had told me I must do and trying to follow his advice. I want to know now who it was ordered me to be arrested. I was praying to the light and to the darkness, to God and to the sun, to let me live quietly there with my family. I don't know what the reason was that people should speak badly of me. I don't want to be blamed. The fault was not mine. Blame those three men. With them is the fault, and find out who it was that began that bad talk about me. I have several times asked for peace, but trouble has come from the agents and interpreters. I don't want what has passed to happen again.

Now, I am going to tell you something else. The Earth-Mother is listening to me and I hope that all may be so arranged that from now on there shall be no trouble and that we shall always have peace. Whenever we see you coming to where we are, we think that it is God—you must come always with God. From this (time) on I do not want that anything shall be told you about me even in joke. Whenever I have broken out, it has always been on account of bad talk. From this (time) on I hope that people will tell me nothing but the truth. From this (time) on I want to do what is right and nothing else and I do not want you to believe any bad papers about me. I want the papers sent you to tell the truth about me, because I want to do what is right.

Geronimo & Chiricahua Apache Prisoners In Transit to Ft. Sam Houston from Marion, Florida, 1884“Geronimo & Chiricahua Apache Prisoners In Transit to Ft. Sam Houston from Marion, Florida, 1884,” A. J. McDonald (Photographer)

Very often there are stories put in the newspapers that I am to be hanged. I don't want that any more. When a man tries to do right, such stories ought not to be put in the newspapers. There are very few of my men left now. They have done some bad things, but I want them all rubbed out now and let us never speak of them again. There are very few of us left. We think of our relations, brothers, brothers-in-law, father-in-law, etc., over on the reservation, and from this (time) on we want to live at peace just as they are doing, and to behave as they are behaving.

Sometimes a man does something and men are sent out to bring in his head. I don't want such things to happen to us. I don't want that we should be killing each other.

What is the matter that you don't speak to me? It would be better if you would speak to me and look with a pleasant face. It would make better feeling. I would be glad if you did. I'd be better satisfied if you would talk to me once in a while. Why don't you look at me and smile at me? I am the same man; I have the same feet, legs, and hands, and the sun looks down on me a complete man. I want you to look and smile at me.

GENERAL CROOK. Let them finish their talk first.

GERONIMO. I have not forgotten what you told me, although a long time has passed. I keep it in my memory. I am a complete man. Nothing has gone from my body. From here on I want to live at peace. Don't believe any bad talk you hear about me. The agents and the interpreter hear that somebody has done wrong, and they blame it all on me. Don't believe what they say. I don't want any of this bad talk in the future.

I don't want those men who talked this way about me to be my agents any more. I want good men to be my agents and interpreters; people who will talk right. I want this peace to be legal and good. Whenever I meet you I talk good to you, and you to me, and peace is soon established, but when you go to the reservation you put agents and interpreters over us who do bad things. Perhaps they don't mind what you tell them, because I do not believe you would tell them to do bad things to us.

In the future we don't want these bad men to be allowed near where we are to live. We don't want any more of that kind of bad talk. I don't want any man who will talk bad about me, and tell lies, to be there, because I am going to try and live well and peaceably. I want to have a good man put over me. While living I want to live well. I know I have to die sometime, but even if the heavens were to fall on me, I want to do what is right. I think I am a good man, but in the papers all over the world they say I am a bad man; but it is a bad thing to say so about me. I never do wrong without a cause.

Every day I am thinking, how am I to talk to you to make you believe what I say; and, I think, too, that you are thinking of what you are to say to me. There is one God looking down on us all. We are all children of the one God. God is listening to me. The sun, the darkness, the winds, are all listening to what we now say.

To prove to you that I am telling you the truth, remember I sent you word that I would come from a place far away to speak to you here, and you see us now. Some have come on horseback and some on foot. If I were thinking bad, or if I had done bad, I would never have come here. If it had been my fault, would I have come so far to talk to you?

I have told you all that has happened. I also had feared that I should never see Ka-e-te-na again, but here he is, and I want the past to be buried. I am glad to see Ka-e-te-na. I was afraid I should never see him again. That was one reason, too, why I left. I wish that Ka-e-te-na would be returned to us to live with his family. I now believe what I was told. Now I believe that all told me is true, because I see Ka-e-te-na again. I am glad to see him again, as I was told I should. We are all glad. My body feels good because I see Ka-e-to-na, and my breathing is good. Now I can eat well, drink well, sleep well, and be glad. I can go, everywhere with good feeling.

Geronimo (Chiricahua Apache), ca. 1885“Geronimo (Chiricahua Apache), ca. 1885,” C. S. Fly (Photographer)

Now, what I want is peace in good faith. Both you and I think we and think alike. Well, we have talked enough and sat here long enough. I may have forgotten something, but if I remember it, I will tell you of it tonight, or tomorrow, or some other time. I have finished for today, but I'll have something more to say bye and bye.

GENERAL CROOK. I have heard what you have said. It seems very strange that more than forty men should be afraid of three. If that was a fact, that you left the reservation for that reason, why did you kill innocent people, sneaking all over the country to do it. What did those innocent people do to you that you should kill them, steal their horses, and slip around in the rocks like coyotes?

GERONIMO. We did not know what we had done to Davis, Mickey, Chato, and Wodiskay.

GENERAL CROOK. But what has that to do with killing innocent people? There is not a week that you don't hear foolish stories in your own camp; but you are no child; you don't have to believe them. You promised me in the Sierra Madre that peace should last, but you have lied about (it). All the Americans said that you were lying when I brought you up there to the reservation, and I have had a constant fight since with my own people to protect you from them.

And the white people say that I am responsible for every one of those people who have been killed. When a man has lied to me once I want some better proof than his own word before I can believe him again. The feeling against having you come back to the reservation had about died out when you broke out again; but now it is worse than ever.

GERONIMO. That's why I want to ask who it was that ordered that I should be arrested.

GENERAL CROOK. That's all bosh. There were no orders for anyone to arrest you.

GERONIMO. Perhaps those who were going to arrest me were under somebody else's orders.

GENERAL CROOK. Geronimo, you sent up some of your people to kill Chato, and Lieutenant Davis, and then you started the story that they had killed them, and thus you got a great many of your people to go out.

GERONIMO. That's not so. You'll know one of these days that it's not so.

“You must make up your own mind whether you will stay out on the warpath or surrender unconditionally.”

GENERAL CROOK. Everything you did on the reservation is known. There is no use for you to try and talk nonsense. I am no child. You must make up your own mind whether you will stay out on the warpath or surrender unconditionally. If you stay out, I'll keep after you and kill the last one, if it takes fifty years. You are making a great fuss about seeing Ka-e-te-na. Over a year ago I asked you if you wanted me to bring Ka-e-te-na back, but you said no. It is a good thing for Geronimo that we did not bring Ka-e-te-na back, because Ka-e-te-na has now more sense than all the rest of the Chiricahua put together.

GERONIMO. I am a man of my word. I am telling the truth, and why I left the reservation.

GENERAL CROOK. You told me the same thing in the Sierra Madre, but you lied.

GERONIMO. Then how do you want me to talk to you? I have but one mouth; I can't talk with my ears.

GENERAL CROOK. Your mouth talks too many ways.

GERONIMO. If you think I am not telling the truth, then I don't think you came down here in good faith.

GENERAL CROOK. I come with the same faith as when I went down to the Sierra Madre. You told me the same things there that you are telling me now: What evidence have I of your sincerity? How do I know whether or not you are lying to me? Have I ever lied to you?

GERONIMO. I was living at peace with my family on the reservation. Why were those stories started about me?

GENERAL CROOK. How do I know? Are not stories started in your own camp every day?

GERONIMO. There is no other captain so great as you. I thought you ought to know about those stories, and who started them.

GENERAL CROOK. Who were all the Indians that those stories were started about?

GERONIMO. If they talked only of me, I should not have minded, but all the Indians know that the stories were about them too. If you don't want to believe me I can prove it by all the men, women, and children of the White Mountain Apache.

GENERAL CROOK. Answer my question.

GERONIMO. They wanted to seize me and Mangus.

GENERAL CROOK. Then why did Natchez and Chihuahua go out?

GERONIMO. Because they were afraid the same thing would happen to them.

GENERAL CROOK. Who made them afraid?

GERONIMO. All the Indians here with me saw the troops and scouts getting ready to go out to arrest us. That is the reason they went out.

GENERAL CROOK. But what did you tell those Indians?

GERONIMO. The only thing I told them was that I heard I was going to be seized and killed, that's all.

GENERAL CROOK. But why did you send up some of your people to kill Lieutenant Davis and Chato?

GERONIMO. I did not tell them to do anything of the kind. If I had said anything like that these Indians would say so.

GENERAL CROOK. That's just what they do say; and you reported that they were killed and that is the reason so many went out with you.

GERONIMO. If that is so, here are a number of White Mountain Indians. They ought to know whether that was so or not.

GENERAL CROOK. But they all know it up there.

GERONIMO. Well, here is a White Mountain sergeant, a man like that won't lie; ask him.

GENERAL CROOK. Plenty of your own friends up there at Fort Apache say it is so.

GERONIMO. This man ought to know something about it; ask him.

GENERAL CROOK. Very likely he don't know anything about it. Those we asked up there did know.

GERONIMO. Whenever I wanted to talk with Lieutenant Davis, I spoke by day or by night. I never went to him in a hidden manner. Maybe some of these men know about it. Perhaps you had better ask them.

GENERAL CROOK. I have said all I have to say. You had better think it over tonight and let me know in the morning.

GERONIMO. All right, we'll talk tomorrow; I may want to ask you some questions, too, as you have asked me some.

Second Day (March 27).

PRESENT: Same as on first day.

“I think the sun is looking down upon me and the earth is listening.”

CHIHUAHUA: I am very glad to see you and have this talk with you. It is as you say, we are always in danger out here. I hope from this time on we may live better with our families and not do any harm to anybody. I am anxious to behave. I think the sun is looking down upon me and the earth is listening. I am thinking better. It seems to me that I have seen the one who makes the rain and sends the winds; or He must have sent you to this place.

Chiricahua Apache Renegades, ca. 1886“Chiricahua Apache Renegades, ca. 1886,” A. Frank Randall (Photographer)

I surrender myself to you because I believe in you and you do not deceive us. You must be our God. I am satisfied with all that you do. You must be the one who makes the green pastures, who sends the rain, who commands the winds. You must be the one who sends the fresh fruits that appear on the trees every year. There are many men in the world who are big chiefs and command many people, but you, I think, are the greatest of them all, or you wouldn't come out here to see us.

I want you to be a father to me and treat me as your son. I want you to have pity on me. There is no doubt that all you do is right, because all you do is just the same as if God did it. Everything you do is right. So I consider, so I believe you to be. I trust in all you say you do not deceive. All the things you tell us are facts. I am now in your hands. I place myself at your disposition. I surrender myself to you. Do with me as you please. I shake your hand (shaking hands).

I want to come right into your camp with my family and stay with you. I don't want to stay away at a distance. I want to be right where you are. I have roamed these mountains from water to water. Never have I found the place where I could see my father or my mother, until today I see you, my father. I surrender to you now and I don't want any more bad feelings or bad talk. I am going over to stay with you in your camp.

Whenever a man raises anything, even a dog, he thinks well of it and tries to raise it right and treat it well. So I want you to feel toward me and be good to me and don't let people say bad things about me. Now I surrender to you and go with you. When we are traveling together on the road or anywhere else, I hope you'll talk to me once in a while. I think a great deal of Alchisay and Ka-e-te-na, and they think a great deal of me, and I hope someday to be all the same as their brother. (Shakes hands again with General Crook.) How long will it be before I can stay with these friends?

GENERAL CROOK. After a while. (Chihuahua shakes hands again.)

CHIHUAHUA. If you don't let me go back to the reservation, I would like you to send my family with me wherever you send me. I have a daughter at Camp Apache, and some others, relations of myself and of my band at San Carlos. Wherever you want to send me I wish you would also send them.

GENERAL CROOK. But will they want to go with you?

CHIHUAHUA. If they want to come, let them come; if they want to stay there, let them. (Shakes hands.) I ask you to find out if they are willing to go or not.

NATCHEZ. What Chihuahua says I say. I surrender just the same as he did. I surrender to you just the same as he did. What he has said I say. I give you my word, I give you my body. I surrender; I have nothing more to say than that. When I was free I gave orders, but now I surrender to you. I throw myself at your feet. You now order and I obey. What you tell me to do I do. (Shakes hands.)

Now that I have surrendered I am glad. I'll not have to hide behind rocks and mountains; I'll go across the open plain. I'll now sleep well, eat contentedly, and be satisfied, and so will my people. There may be lots of men who have bad feelings against us. I will go wherever you may see fit to send us, where no bad talk will be spoken of us.

When I was out in the mountains I thought I should never see you again, but I am glad because I now see you and have a talk with you. I think now it is best for us to surrender and not remain out in the mountains like fools, as we have been doing. I have nothing further to say. I surrender to you, and hope you will be kind to us, as you have always been a good friend to the Indians and tried to do what was right for them.

I have changed all my thoughts. I surrender to you. Whatever you do to me is right, and all these men here are witnesses that I surrender to you. The day has at last come when I could see you, talk to and surrender to you. I have always believed all you told me. You don't lie to me. I hope from this day on you will see that I am in earnest and will believe what I say. This is not the first time I've talked with you, and I hope it won't be the last.

I surrender to you, and place myself in your hands. I'll do what you say, but I want you from time to time to talk with me. I think a great deal of Alchisay and Ka-e-te-na and I know you do too. I hope they will think as much of me as you do of them. I don't know where you are going to send me, but I am afraid I will not see Alchisay or Ka-e-te-na again.

GENERAL CROOK. Don't worry about that.

Mescalero Apache Tipis, ca. 1906“Mescalero Apache Tipis, ca. 1906,” H. F. Robinson (Photographer)

CHIHUAHUA. That's all I have to say. I have spoken with all my heart. (Shakes hands with General Crook.) When shall we start from here?

GENERAL CROOK. I am going back to Bowie tomorrow, as I have much work to do there. Alchisay, Ka-e-te-na, and the scouts will stay with you and take you over to Bowie. I think you will start in the morning. There are no rations here. Every day I will have a courier from Lieutenant Maus to tell me where you are and how you are doing.

CHIHUAHUA. Our stock is very poor, and I was afraid that I'd have to travel too fast.

GENERAL CROOK. Not at all; you will come along in good time.

CHIHUAHUA. I will send you word each day.

GENERAL CROOK. All right. Ka-e-te-na can write your letters for you. (Chihuahua shakes hands with General Crook.)

GERONIMO. Two or three words are enough. I have little to say. I surrender myself to you. (Shakes hands with General Crook.) We are all comrades, all one family, all one band. What the others say I say also. I give myself up to you. Do with me what you please. I surrender. Once I moved about like the wind. Now I surrender to you and that is all. (Shakes hands with General. Crook.) I don't want any one to say any wrong thing about me any way. I surrender to you and want to be just as if I were in your pocket.

My heart is yours, and I hope yours will be mine. (Shakes hands.) Now I feel like your brother, and Ka-e-te-na is my brother also (Shakes hands.) I was very far from here. Almost nobody could go to that place. But I sent you word I wanted to come in here, and here I am. I have no lies in my heart. Whatever you tell me is true. We are all satisfied of that. I hope the day may come when my word shall be as strong with you as yours is with me. That's all I have to say now, except a few words. I should like to have my wife and daughter come to meet me at Fort Bowie or Silver Creek.

GENERAL CROOK. They can meet you on the road somewhere. I can't tell where. You must not pay any attention to the talk you hear. There are some people who can no more control their talk than the wind can.

GERONOMO. I want now to let Alchisay and Ka-e-te-na to speak a few words. They have come a long ways and I want to hear them speak.

KA-E-TE-NA. Let Alchisay speak for me. I have a sore throat.

ALCHISAY. They have all surrendered. There is nothing more to be done, but I'll speak only a few words. I am mad with Captain Bourke because he is writing down what I say. I am not a captain but a small man, and what I say don't count.

GENERAL CROOK. It's best to put everything on paper. When you are dead your children and your children's children can know what you have said. It is not this kind of paper that lies; it's the newspapers.

Apaches at Fort Union, ca. 1880s“Apaches at Fort Union, ca. 1880s,” Unidentified (Photographer)

ALCHISAY. I am talking now for these Chiricahua. They have surrendered. I don't want you to have any bad feelings toward them. They are all good friends now, and I am glad they have surrendered, because they are all the same people—all one family with me; just like when you kill a deer, all its parts are of the one body; so with these Chiricahua. Now they have surrendered, they are one body with the rest of the Apache.

You are our chief; the only one we have; there is no other. No matter where you send these Chiricahua we hope to hear that you have treated them kindly. All these lies in the newspapers, don't mind them; if you are satisfied with us we don't care what the newspapers say.

A hen has many chickens; she goes ahead, the chickens follow; so you are going over to Apache Pass and we are coming along behind you. Now, we want to travel along the open road and drink the waters of the Americans, and not hide in the mountains; we want to live without danger or discomfort.

I am very glad that the Chiricahua surrendered, and that I have been able to talk for them. After I get back to Camp Apache, I want to talk a little for myself. We want you to be in charge of us and no one else; you know me well; I have never told you a lie, nor have you ever told me a lie, and now I tell you that these Chiricahua really want to do what is right and live at peace. If they don't, then I lie, and you must not believe me anymore.

It's all right; you are going ahead to Fort Bowie; I want you to carry away in your pocket all that has been said here today.

GENERAL CROOK. You mean all that all the Chiricahua have said.

ALCHISAY. That's what I mean.