Customer Reviews: Geronimo (The Lamar Series in Western History)
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It is fitting for Yale University's Lamar Series in Western History to have an entry by Robert M. Utley, who, if not the dean of Western historians, certainly is the dean of historians of American Indians. And this biography of Geronimo instantly becomes THE definitive biography, and is likely to remain so for decades.

Unlike many who write about the American Indians, Utley does not succumb to romanticized hero worship. Within the bounds of what is known or can reasonably be inferred, Utley produces responsible history. Utley's GERONIMO bucks the trend of popular history, in which the famous Indian warriors (for example, Crazy Horse, Sitting Bull, Quanah Parker, and Chief Joseph) are presented as Noble Aborigines, "culturally pure innocent victims of American expansion" who valiantly waged war in a quixotic effort to save their homelands. Often Geronimo was little more than a brigand, a "murderous butcher" even. Utley concludes that Geronimo was "a not very likable man", who "within the constraints of Apache culture * * * was a human being with many strengths and many flaws." The image of him as the greatest of the Indian chiefs who fought "to save his homeland from takeover by the westward-moving white people" is "demonstrably untrue." In Utley's view, Geronimo was not even the greatest of all Apache chiefs - Mangas Coloradas was.

However, the revisionism of GERONIMO, if revisionism it is, does not go so far as to glorify or justify those ever "westward-moving white people". In Utley's book, there are a few honorable emissaries of the European-American forces of civilization, but far too often the conquerors conducted themselves with greed, mendacity, and callous cruelty.

The most interesting part of GERONIMO is the Epilogue, in which Utley summarizes Geronimo's life and discusses the myth of Geronimo and how it came to be. The preceding 262 pages cover the details of Geronimo's life, as well as the broader history and culture of the Apaches. That account is extremely thorough - much too thorough for me as a relatively casual reader. At times the prose takes on literary qualities but for the most part it is only serviceable. GERONIMO is sound history, but it does not make for a particularly enjoyable reading experience.

P.S.: I noticed one inexplicable gaffe. Utley writes that the Mogollon Mountains, in which Geronimo spent much of his life, are "the highest and most rugged range in New Mexico, [rising] above eight thousand feet, with more than five peaks soaring above ten thousand." The Mogollons are indeed rugged, but they are by no means the highest range in New Mexico. In the Sangre de Christos, in the foothills of which I live, there are dozens of peaks higher than ten thousand feet, including the highest mountain in New Mexico, Mt. Wheeler, at 13,163 feet.
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on December 11, 2012
As an adovcate of liberty, I have read many histories of the Old West with the conflicts between settlers and the Native Americans and am saddened by the abuse that had been heaped upon these aboriginal peoples. Lands were stolen from them via treaties that the white man knew could not be kept and Indians were mistreated by unscruplous men. Robert Utley presents us with the biography of Gernonimo and in the end, the biography shows us a man that did not measure up to the status of other famous American Indians like Sitting Bull, Black Kettle and Osceola. The book's 275 pages of text forms a comprehensive portrait of a brilliant man who held grudges for far too long, but finally changed his violent ways after surrendering at Skeleton Canyon in September of 1886, ending the Indian Wars for all intents and purposes.

Utley is honest in stating that there is very little information on the early life of Geronimo due to lack of doucmentation other than what Geronimo stated in his autobiography. Utley also guides us through the many raids that Gernonimo conducted in Mexico where he terrorized the population with dead and destruction, still holding hatred in his heart for the country where Mexicans killed his first family. Utley also helps the readers by putting in maps that traced Gernoimo's movements in the United States and Mexico up to his surrender at Skeleton Canyon. It was a good read that gives the reader a "you-are-there" perspective and involves us in the chases and breakouts from the San Carlos Reservation. After his capture, he was sent to Fort Pickens near Pensacola, Florida and then trnaferred to an army post north of Mobile, Alabama before he made his final home near Fort Sill, Oklahoma where he died in 1909 still a prisoner of war.

In the end, I think that Mr. Utley gave a balanced presentation. Geronimo was no saint, but he was a victim of many betrayals by both the U.S. and Mexican governments that caused needless conflict. Geronimo was a fierce fighter who led his people through the diffcult paths of the Sierra Madre Mountains in Mexico, but was done in by a lack of vigilance and was worn out by the constant chase. Geronimo is no role model, but it is important to read material like this to get a fuller perspective on how it was. The book contains a substantive end note section, index and bibliography. A good read. Four stars
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on January 31, 2014
quick read at 275 pages and gives great history of Geronimo from youth to his death in chronological order. Much better than the book I read about Cochise (brascom affair) where I was expecting to learn about his life but instead only got pieces of it and a lot of misc. data. Highly recommend this book for the good and bad around surrounding Geronimo and his contemporaries
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on February 7, 2013
This book does not seek to make a cult-hero of Geronimo. It states the facts as well as the author can determine through all of his research and compiles them into an accurate biography with no frills and fancy embellishments. I recommend it to any serious reader of Indian history.
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on August 20, 2013
First off, let the record show I'm an student of the Apache history and I enjoy visiting the Apache historical sites.

This book is well written, with a unique style in some ways (I won't spoil it for you, but it is different).

The maps are helpful and attractive.

But there is little new information here that I didn't already know. Utley does explore the possibility that Geronimo was an interpreter for Cochise at an important meeting with the whites-that I had never heard.

Utley also leaves out some important details of Geronimo's "Handiwork" during his raids, which I found disappointing.
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on January 31, 2013
This publication on Geronimo gave me great reading enjoyment. In spite of all the oppression these Native Americans have suffered in their early history, it is pleasing to read that in spite of all,they rise above and remain a strong nation today. Geronimo is one who is intrumentalin the forming of his nation and his people. A formative warrior,never to become Chief, but still one who raged on in spite of of all the odds going against him. He believed in his mission, he wanted to make a difference and in his way he did. A lot of damage had been done to his people, to himself, to his nation, but he waged on.
A great publication,well written which takes the reader into the very heart of this great warrior, Geronimo. To go hand in hand with this publication, Mr Uyley also wrote of Sitting Bull, which goes hand in hand with Geronimo in the preservation of the Native Americans by these two great historical figures. Great reading for anyone who loves History.
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on September 6, 2013
Here again a serious historian provides an easy and interesting read on a true American legend. This book is a great addition to any Apache and southwest historians library. It is also recommended for the casual reader who simply is looking for refreshing look at Geronimo.
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on May 1, 2014
Robert Utley's "Geronimo" is another fine piece of history by this author. Utley doesn't white wash Geronimo nor does he try to "trash" Geronimo. Utley's Geronimo is a complicated man who could often be cruel and ruthless to his enemies(primarily Mexicans and Americans), but also a strong leader and caring family man. Geronimo, according to Utley, often lied and broke promises, but usually to protect himself or his family.

Utley gives a fascinating portrait of Geronimo and also good history of the Apache people and their struggle against the American and Mexican governments. Recommended for those interested Native American history.
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on June 6, 2016
This book was used but i could not tell it,looked new to me.Robert Utley did a excellent job telling Geronimo facts would recommend to anyone that likes american west history!!!!!
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on January 1, 2015
Mr. Utley's usual readable and (I suspect) accurate telling of the tale of a very famous person.
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