(CN) – Twenty descendants of Geronimo sued the president, the defense secretary, Yale University and Yale’s Order of Skull and Bones, demanding the return of the Apache leader’s remains “from 100 years of imprisonment at Ft. Sill, Oklahoma, the Yale University campus at New Haven, Connecticut, and wherever else they may be found.” The “lineal descendants of Geronimo” want his remains and effects returned “to his native land, at the headwaters of the Gila River among the surrounding mountains, near the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument”.
Geronimo’s favorite place was believed to be on or near Turkey Creek, on or near today’s Mescalero Apache reservation, though Geronimo was from another band.
Geronimo (Goyathlay, or “corner of the mouth” in the Athapaskan language) achieved renown by repeatedly fleeing reservations where he and his followers were imprisoned with members of other Apache bands, upon many of whom Geronimo’s own band had waged intermittent war.
Perhaps the most famous Native American in history, Geronimo surrendered for the last time in 1886. He died in captivity at Fort Sill in 1909 and was buried there at the Apache Prisoner of War Cemetery.
Yale’s Skull and Bones Society is believed to have stolen some of his bones and personal effects in 1918. One of the alleged thieves supposedly was Prescott Bush, father of George H.W. Bush and grandfather of George W. Bush. The Skull and Bones, as a “secret society,” won’t say.
The best and perhaps only factual account of Apache beliefs is Grenville Goodwin’s “The Social Organization of the Western Apache.” Goodwin died in 1940 at age 32. He learned the Apache language. Eve Ball’s books on the Apaches also are worth reading. Despite the plethora of books about Geronimo, Cochise, Juh and other famous Apaches, most Anglo writers and commentators know little or nothing about Apache society, and that’s probably the way the Apaches like it.
The Apache plaintiffs are represented in District of Columbia Federal Court by Ramsey Clark.