Geronimo: An American Legend, written by Bill Sylvester, is the story of the Apache warrior who led a successful campaign to drive the Spanish out of Arizona in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. The movie depicts the legendary war leader as a leader who is tough, courageous, resourceful as well as one of the most colorful figures of the American West. As a result, it also depicts the fact that Americans were often willing to overlook or forget his faults in order to follow him into battle.
As a teenager, my uncle was in his early twenties when he read a biography about Geronimo, and his reaction was one that I have not seen many people express. He said that the book was not good history, but he did not say it was bad, only that it did not fit in with his own view of the American story. When I asked him why he thought so, he said, "Why do you think this book is not part of the American story?" My response was that I did not know what was part of the American story, since no one else seemed to know either.
That is not to say that Geronimo is not an important part of the American story. In many ways, he was, because he is so pivotal in the development of the West and American culture. No matter how bad the writing was in this book, and despite my uncle's strong opinion, I believe that there are plenty of reasons why this book is part of the American story.
For one thing, there are many stories of Indian bravery that were told to me by elders, which had always made me proud to be an Indian, even though it seemed strange to me at the time. Some were about war, some were about peace, and some were about survival. Geronimo, as well as other brave Indian leaders, are important to understand for this reason.
As an illustration of this, consider that when President Johnson declared a "War on Poverty" and began to spend money on social programs, he included in his budget funds for Indian education. Many of these were specifically intended to prepare young American Indians for life in the West, since many Indian children never received an education and are left behind in a society that does not offer them much hope for freedom, especially if they live in urban areas where poverty and poor health are more often than not uncommon.
So while some of the accounts of Geronimo in the movie might not necessarily be accurate, what is accurate is the lesson we can learn from such a remarkable leader. from a historical perspective - you can make history even if your memory and deeds are not perfect, just by knowing what is important to your own people.