Thursday, February 26, 2009

Geronimo lawsuit attracts the world's attention

To view a copy of the Geronimo lawsuit, go to:
http://www.lcsun-news.com/ci_11736240?IADID=Search-www.lcsun-news.com-www.lcsun-news.com&IADID=Search-www.lcsun-news.com-www.lcsun-news.com
or
Go to www.lcsun-news.com, click on this column to be published March 1, 2009.
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By S. Derrickson Moore
Sun-News reporter
LAS CRUCES — Wherever his remains end up, it’s clear that Geronimo’s spirit lives on.
The Las Cruces Sun-News broke the story online Feb. 17, shortly before a press conference on the 100th anniversary of Geronimo’s death, when Harlyn Geronimo and his wife Karen and a group of Geronimo’s descendants filed a lawsuit in U.S. federal court, asking that his spirit and remains be freed for burial at the headwaters of the Gila River where Geronimo was born.
The complaint, which names President Barack Obama and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates among the defendants, seeks “to free Geronimo, his remains, funerary objects and spirit from 100 years of imprisonment at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, the Yale University campus at New Haven, Connecticut and wherever else they may be found.”
Since then, print, online and video reports have turned up all over the world. It was a lead item on the Russia Today Web site, complete with a photo of Geronimo I’ve never seen before, in what looks like Siberian folk garb.
I’ve fielded queries from British and German journalists, the Associated Press in Albuquerque and Web surfers across the nation.
“Hi from Pennsylvania,” an erstwhile New Mexican named Bill greeted me. “I just read your article about the return of the remains of Geronimo, after hearing the story on the radio this morning. I was born in Socorro and would like to ‘return’ there myself, but I support this effort. The radio story was from a station in Missouri, so probably a lot of people are aware.”
They sure are, Bill. The story spread like wildfire, touching the souls of those from many tribes on Indianz.com, and conspiracy theorists intrigued by the Skull and Bones connections. (A summary if you missed that part: Rumors have it that a 1918 letter, found in the Yale archives by a writer three years ago, addressed rumors that have persisted for nearly a century that Prescott Bush, father of President George and grandfather of George W., raided the Ft. Sills, Okla., tomb of Geronimo, and with others,” brought back his skull and femurs, and his horse’s bit and saddle horn, to the S & B headquarters at Yale.”
Or maybe not.
A Feb. 20 story in the Wichita Falls, Texas Times Record News quotes Gene Keeler, who alleges that his grandfather, Samuel Dave Cerday, a member of the Comanche tribe, helped “Apache chiefs” move Geronimo’s body from a burial plot, not at Ft. Sills, but at “Peachtree Crossing ... to yet another site at Elk Mountain, near Indiahoma, Okla.”
There has been a lot of active disputing of these allegations from many sources, and official tribal statements are mixed. The Ft. Sills Chiricahua Apaches and Mescalero Apache leaders have reportedly been considering whether or not to intervene in the lawsuit.
The chief attorney handling the lawsuit, Ramsey Clark, a former U.S. Attorney general under President Lyndon Johnson, has stated that the wishes of direct descendants have precedence over general tribal affiliation when it comes to the disposition of remains.
There is controversy on the direct descendants front, too. I received an e-mail from a representative of those claiming to be “the true descendants of Geronimo” and am awaiting further information. And while swimming laps at a local pool, I was approached by a person who said family legend has it that she, too, is a descendant of Geronimo.
Other feel a spiritual kinship, and want to help. An Ohio attorney with family connections in New Mexico e-mailed that her great-grandmother “walked the Trail of Tears. If I can volunteer to offer my legal skills in any way in this case, please feel free to e-mail my office. We all hope and will assist legal and political efforts to have all remains rightfully returned so our ancestor’s spirit may finally rest.”
I cannot say I was unprepared for all this. I’ve been covering Indian issues of repatriation and tribal rights since the 1970s and I first met and interviewed Harlyn Geronimo about his plans for this suit in 2007.
But I found myself surprised and moved by the passion of reactions to Geronimo and the continuing controversy that surrounds this case and by the lawsuit itself, which constitutes a poignant history well worth reading, wherever you stand on this particular issue. You can find it online by going to www.lcsun-news.com and clicking on this column.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Will Geronimo come home to the Gila?

By S. Derrickson Moore
Sun-News reporter
LAS CRUCES — The 100th anniversary of the death of legendary Chiricahua Apache leader and warrior Geronimo will be marked with an attempt to return “bring him home.”
Carlos Melendrez of Las Cruces said efforts to “repatriate” Geronimo’s remains from Ft. Sill, Okla., to a site in the Gila Wilderness will be announced today. 2/16/09 Feb. 17
“Tuesday Feb. 17 will mark the one hundred year anniversary of the death of Geronimo yet he remains imprisoned, in spite of presidential promises to the contrary. At 10 a.m. EST (Feb. 17), former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, Harlyn Geronimo and Carlos (Charlie) Melendrez will hold a press conference in Washington D.C. to announce the filing of a lawsuit under the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. The lawsuit is to force compliance and repatriate Geronimo to his birthplace,” according to an e-mail from Melendrez.
Melendrez, a Las Cruces native and long-time activist who worked with Cesar Chavez and on a variety of environmental courses in California before his return to New Mexico, said the lawsuit is the result of extensive research and consultation with Geronimo’s descendants and with Clark, who played a crucial role in the American Civil Rights movement as U.S. Attorney General during President Lyndon Johnson’s administration and has since handled a variety of high-profile and often controversial international cases.
“This campaign has taken 4 and 1/2 years to reach this point,” Melendrez said. He said he expects the press conference to be broadcast on C-SPAN at about 10 a.m. EST (8 a.m. Las Cruces time) on Feb. 17.
In a May 1, 2007, interview with the Las Cruces Sun-News, Harlyn Geronimo of Mescalero identified himself as the great-grandson of Geronimo and said he wants to see the return of Geronimo’s remains from his “burial in captivity” in Fort Sill, Okla., and to “complete a cycle” by establishing a final resting place in his New Mexico homeland.
A properly consecrated final burial is a crucial and sacred part of Apache spiritual beliefs and traditions, he said.
“When a baby is born, there is a blessing ceremony and the afterbirth is buried there, and that’s where my great-grandfather should be buried, under the juniper trees where he was born. This area is sacred to tradition. In order to complete the cycle, we must bring his remains to the birth area to have his spirit complete and join to the next world. We hope that we could have a fitting memorial in these ancestral lands.”
Geronimo wants to create a 12-foot bronze of his great-grandfather to be placed at the warrior’s Gila Wilderness birthplace.
After decades of eluding capture, Geronimo surrendered to Gen. Nelson Miles on Sept. 4, 1886, officially becoming “the last American Indian force formally to capitulate to the United States,” according to a history provided by Melendrez and Geronimo’s family members.
The government transported Geronimo and nearly 450 Apache men, women, and children to Florida for confinement in Forts Marion and Pickens. Many of the group were relocated to the Mt. Vernon barracks in Alabama, where about one quarter died from tuberculosis and other diseases. In 1894, they were removed to Fort Sill in Oklahoma. On Feb. 17, 1909, Geronimo “died as a prisoner of war, unable to return to his homeland,” and was buried in Fort Sill, Okla.
Harlyn Geronimo, who is also a medicine man, an artist, sculptor, actor and filmmaker, has focused on accurate portrayals of his people and their traditions. He was a consultant for a History Channel documentary on “The Apache Wars,” and other films and documentaries.
In his 2007 Sun-News interview, Geronimo said he would like the world to know that his relative was not only a warrior, but also was a healer and spiritual leader and he wants to share the oral history cherished by a family of descendants that includes his siblings, his cousins and their children and grandchildren.
S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at dmoore@lcsun-news.com
dmoore 2/16/09

ONLINE EXTRA: An interview with Harlyn Geronimo explaining the reasons for the lawsuit appeared in the Las Cruces Sun-News on May 13, 2007

About Geronimo
(Sources: Carlos Melendrez of Las Cruces and Geronimo’s descendants, including Harlyn Geronimo of Mescalero)
1829: Geronimo was born near the headwaters of Gila River in what is now New Mexico’s Gila Wilderness
1858: Returning home from a trading excursion into Mexico, he found his first wife, his mother and his three young children had been murdered by Spanish troops from Mexico.
1875: All Apaches west of the Rio Grande were ordered to the San Carlos Reservation in Arizona. Geronimo escaped from the reservation three times and although he eventually surrendered, he always managed to avoid capture.
1876: The U.S. Army tried to move the Chiricahuas onto a reservation, but Geronimo fled to Mexico, eluding U.S. troops for over a decade. Historians say the last few months of the campaign to track down Geronimo and his band required over 5,000 soldiers, one-quarter of the entire Army at the time, along with 500 scouts, and about 3,000 Mexican soldiers. He finally agreed to spend the last part of the 1870s at the Arizona reservation.
1881: An Apache prophet was killed and Geronimo and his group escaped to a secret camp in the Sierra Madre Mountains.
1882: Apache scouts working for the U.S. Army persuaded Geronimo to return with his people to the reservation.
1885: Persecution and arrests of Apaches prompted Geronimo to flee on May 17, 1885, with 35 warriors and 109 women, children and youths.
1886: Geronimo surrendered to Gen. Nelson Miles on Sept. 4, 1886, and became the last American Indian force formally to capitulate to the United States. The government breached its agreement and transported Geronimo and nearly 450 Apache men, women, and children to Florida for confinement in Forts Marion and Pickens. Many of the group were relocated to the Mt. Vernon barracks in Alabama, where about one quarter died from tuberculosis and other diseases.
1894: They were removed to Fort Sill in Oklahoma. Geronimo became a rancher, appeared (1904) at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis, and rode in President Theodore Roosevelt’s 1905 inaugural parade.
Feb. 17, 1909: Geronimo died as a prisoner of war, unable to return to his homeland. He was buried in Fort Sill, Okla.

By S. Derrickson Moore
Sun-News reporter
LAS CRUCES — Harlyn Geronimo grew up with a proud heritage and he’s concerned about its preservation ... and the peace of a famous relative’s soul.
He is the great-grandson of the famed Geronimo and would like the world to know that the internationally renowned Chiricahua Apache warrior was also a healer and spiritual leader. He wants to share the oral history cherished by a family of descendants that includes his siblings, his cousins and their children and grandchildren.
And he longs to “complete a cycle” by bringing his great-grandfather’s final resting place to his New Mexico homeland.
He wants to create a 12-foot bronze of his great-grandfather to be placed at the warrior’s Gila Wilderness birthplace, and he would like to see the return of Geronimo’s remains from his “burial in captivity” in Fort Sill, Okla.
A properly consecrated final burial is a crucial and sacred part of Apache spiritual beliefs and traditions, he explained.
“When a baby is born, there is a blessing ceremony and the afterbirth is buried there, and that’s where my great-grandfather should be buried, under the juniper trees where he was born. This area is sacred to tradition. In order to complete the cycle, we must bring his remains to the birth area to have his spirit complete and join to the next world. We hope that we could have a fitting memorial in these ancestral lands.”
He remembers hearing stories about his great-grandfather from Geronimo’s wife, his great-grandmother Kate.
“I was a child then. My mother Manuella used to take me to Kate’s place and I would sit there and listen. I heard about the times Geronimo went down into Mexico,” said Harlyn, whose father Juanito was the son of Juan, who was the son of Kate and Geronimo.
He also heard stories about the meeting of his great-grandparents.
“Kate told me that she and 18 other people came from the Mescalero area into Black Range, looking for wild deer and berries, they heard some noise and horses and got into camp and found Geronimo and his band coming back and met a war party. My great-grandmother and great-grandfather were both members of the eastern band of the Chiricahua.”
Like other kids of his era — he turns 60 in November — dmoore 2/16/09 this would be 62 now he also grew up hearing his great-grandfather’s name invoked in connection with acts of bravery and derring-do ... and also recalls hearing shouts of “Geronimo!” during his two tours of duty with the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War.
He wants the world to know more about his great-grandfather.
“Yes, he was a great warrior. At one time a quarter of the entire United States Army was after him, along with 500 scouts and 3,000 men from the Mexican Army. And they still couldn’t find him. They had their top athletes involved in tracking him but they couldn’t keep up. He was a great military strategist. But many people don’t know about his spiritual side. He was also a medicine man, a prophet and a great leader. People are still studying what he knew and they should,” said Harlyn, who believes the warrior’s stamina under duress is linked to his knowledge as a medicine man. “Like the food they ate when the army was after them: jerky is 100 percent protein. They were on the Atkins diet,” he quipped. “They also knew a lot about medicinal herbs.
Harlyn would like to see a new biography of Geronimo that incorporates sound historical research and also mines the wealth of information still available from living family members.
“We have a lot of oral history that has been passed down to us that has never been published,” he said.
He also wants what he feels is an appropriate and dignified final resting place for his famed relative, who, he said, was buried in exile, “still being held prisoner” in a grave in Fort Sill, Okla., in 1909.
After decades of eluding capture, Geronimo surrendered to Gen. Nelson Miles on Sept. 4, 1886, officially becoming “the last American Indian force formally to capitulate to the United States.”
What historians have failed to note is that a love story was involved in the surrender.
The government breached its agreement and transported nearly 450 Apache men, women, and children from their Southwestern homelands to Florida for confinement in Forts Marion and Pickens.
“First the women were sent. Geronimo had married my great-grandmother Kate around that time, and he wanted to be with her, so he had to go to Florida,” Harlyn said.
In 1894, Geronimo and other survivors were transferred to Oklahoma.
“He died there without ever being allowed to return to his homelands.”
Geronimo, he said, should have been laid to rest at a site near the headwaters of the Gila River in the Gila Wilderness, where he was born in 1829.
Harlyn, who is also a medicine man, an artist, sculptor, actor and filmmaker, has focused on accurate portrayals of his people and their traditions.
He was involved in the Discovery Channel documentary “Lozen,” about the Apache woman warrior and prophetic spiritual leader.
“She is one of the masters of military tactics and was the sister of the Apache chief Victorio.”
He portrayed the Cheyenne Chief One-Eye in Steven Spielberg’s award-winning “Into the West” series for TNT and was a consultant for a History Channel documentary on “The Apache Wars.” He is currently working with a French film company on a project that will take him this summer to Europe and then to Mongolia to study migrations of indigenous peoples through land passages from Asia to the North American continent.
“My wife Karen is a teacher who teaches Apache,” he said, and they have found intriguing similarities between Apache and ancient Asia dialects. Like Harlyn and his great-grandfather, Karen Geronimo is a healer, a medicine woman knowledgeable about traditional herbal remedies.
Legends abound in his homeland about Geronimo’s knowledge of the healing arts. Several sites in Southern New Mexico claim to host healing springs frequented by the famous leader. Truth or Consequences has named Geronimo Springs Museum for him and devotes a room to exhibits and artifacts focusing on his life and times.
Harlyn, who has also been actively involved as a leader with the Mescalero Apache Tribal Council, now lives with his wife in the mountains of Mescalero. They have three grown children and four grandchildren.
For their sake, he wants to help pass on a clear picture of their heritage.
In online searches, he said he has found as many as 15 million references to his famed ancestor, who has been the subject of numerous movies, books, short stories, song and poems.
“There is a lot that is negative. My family has so much oral history that should not be lost. We want to pass on the truth about Geronimo and the Apache culture,” he said.

S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at dmoore@lcsun-news.com

Pan Am Memories

Pan Am Memories

By S. Derrickson Moore
Sun-News reporter
LAS CRUCES — I’m not up there with the veterans like Barbara Hubbard and Bobbie Welch, but I’ve been covering stories at the Pan Am Center since the mid 90s and I’ve enjoyed a lot of encounters with greatness, on and off stage.
I’ve watched Pan Am’s all-time-record ticket seller Garth Brooks soar over the crowd in a flying harness. And I’ve sat with him a backstage room, debating a photo agreement. He allowed fans to bring their cameras, but members of the press were banned from bringing cameras into the stadium unless they signed a long legal document full of restrictions. Our editors decided not to sign. But hey, I understand. Garth and I have the same birthday and I hate to have my picture taken, too.
Still, it’s photo images of some stars that I remember most: a big screen video of Alan Jackson water-skiing in red cowboy boots, Elton John pounding a piano in a rather conservative (for him) purple suit.
In her first appearance here, Faith Hill impressed me as the first big name in her genre not to go for the big country hair. Later, she was back with Tim McGraw for their Spontaneous Combustion tour, which turned out to be just that. There were rumors of love messages scrawled in lipstick on backstage mirrors. A proposal and their marriage soon followed.
Love was more combative when Bobby Brown appeared here, and then-wife Whitney Houston joined him backstage. Let’s just say their subsequent public passionate squabbles and eventual breakup came as no news to those of us who passed through noisy corridors back then.
Other stars were very open and sociable ... and occasionally dauntless. I remember interviewing Vince Gill while he played golf during a sandstorm that would send even veteran desert dwellers like myself running indoors for cover.
Linda Ronstadt was also very open and forthcoming, even in pain. She injured her back playing with her kids and went off to Las Cruces chiropractor Dr. Karin Cook and Rolfer Mark Cook and pronounced them the best body workers she’d encountered.
Some of my most vivid memories are of Pan Am lectures by superstar minds like “Color Purple” author Alice Walker, Holocaust survivor and author Eli Weisel and investigative journalist Seymour Hersh. His comments at Pan Am made the national wire services when he said, “George Bush scares the hell out of me,” and told audiences why, back when our former President was still riding a crest of post 9-11 popularity.
I first met and interviewed Gloria Steinem when I was a Portland, Ore., city editor during the 1970s and was struck, then and later at Pan Am, by her humor, gentleness with sometimes shy fans, and common sense, compassionate approach to social issues.
There were a couple of return engagements like that, that sent me down memory lane. It was good to see John Denver again. I’d worked with him on environmental causes decades ago, including the nation’s first nuclear safeguard ballot measure campaign in Oregon. He gave a benefit concert for the cause and helped us recruit people like Margaret Mead and Jacques Cousteau to discuss problems of nuclear waste storage and plant safety, back in the days before Three Mile Island and Chernobyl disasters. I’d worked with Doc Severinsen, too, when I was director of festival marketing with the Palm Beach County Council of the Arts. Doc chose to give his symphonic farewell performance with Mariachi Cobre and the Las Cruces Symphony and impressed many with his willingness to hang out with students and fans. I’ll remember him dancing with a slice of pizza at a Pan Am rehearsal.
Gloria Estefan’s show here reminded me of her generosity when a friend and I recruited her to do a benefit for victims of Hurricane Andrew, the first of the recent monster hurricanes.
Sometimes shows have led to revelations about well-known Las Crucens. Sally and Glenn Cutter and I all discovered we share a passion for Johnny Cash when we bumped into each other at the Pan Am at one of Johnny and June Carter Cash’s last shows.
I’ve watched “CATS!” cavort and caterwaul and Lipperzanner stallions prance and preen. I’ve basked in the brilliant blues riffs of B.B. King. I’ve been showered with watermelon shrapnel from Gallagher’s mighty sledgehammer.
In my first decade here, The Las Cruces Sun-News covered all of the Las Cruces Symphony concerts and most of the big name entertainers who came to El Paso and Southern New Mexico.
A few years ago, we moved more toward advance coverage and interviews, when we can get them, with visiting celebrities.
I covered a couple of the Warped Tours. After the Pearl Jam concert, I locked myself out of my house and wondered if I was suffering from a psychic contact high. My last big rock concert was Sheryl Crow. She’s one of my all-time favorites, but as I moved from my coveted front section seats to a place a block outside Pan Am where I could hear the lyrics and stand the noise level, I thought: “I’m getting too old for this.”
Still, there are moments when I remember the thrill of trumpets and the flash of folklorico dancers’ skirts at Las Cruces International Mariachi conferences, the smell of teen spirit at a grunge rock fiesta, the roar of the crowds, the excitement, the camaraderie of a shared experience with a big, diverse and happy group in the old querencia.
I think about running up those steep Pan Am stairs to phone in a story, rushing to the laptop or the office to get online or beat late print deadlines. And I think of Doc Severinsen, at age 80, jogging up and down those same steps and still managing to deliver some brilliant trumpet riffs.
And I think Pan Am and I may still have some good years left, after all.
S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at dmoore@lcsun-news.com

Thursday, February 5, 2009

When it comes to love and valentines, some of the best things in life are free

By S. Derrickson Moore
Sun-News reporter
LAS CRUCES — Let’s talk about love. And Valentine’s Day, the primo day to officially celebrate it.
I can’t wait to catch some of the alternative Valentine’s Day art shows and celebrations this year, but —full disclosure — Valentine’s Day is my already my personal favorite holiday of the year and I beg to disagree with those who call it a contrived or “made up” holiday.
If you’re a V-Day grinch, I think you have the wrong attitude about the attitude that inspires the day. The way my loved ones and I commemorate it, it’s possibly the least commercial of celebrations.
You don’t need five dozen roses, diamonds, pounds of chocolate, a tacky stuffed bear, a $100 bottle of designer champagne or a steak and lobster feast that blows your family food budget for a month. In fact, I think the best ways to celebrate the day are inexpensive, by anybody’s standard. In fact, most of ‘em are free.
Here are my top ten ways to celebrate Valentine’s Day:
10. Take a walk with your loved one, your spouse, significant other, son or daughter or grandkid or niece or nephew. Or invite a friend or neighbor, a coworker, someone from your church or club ... anyone you’d like to get to know a little better. A little stroll is not as formal as a date, but might lead to one. Pick a pretty location like a local park, a desert trail, the Mesilla Plaza, the Downtown Mall, or a walk around any block you’re near when the spirit moves you.
9. Love your community. Prove you don’t have to be arrested to do community service. Volunteer for an hour or two for a cause that interests you. Walk a dog, help out at Jardin de los Ni├▒os or a senior center, join the Branigan Library Friends group. You might make a friend who loves the same things you do.
8. Dream some dreams. Invite a friend for a dream-storming session. Make a list of your top unfulfilled dreams and discuss how you can help each other make them come true.
7. Be a love slave. Give coupons to your loved ones good for anything from a hug and kiss to a backrub, a food massage or chores like a kitchen cleanup, a car wash, planting a garden, etc.
6. Plan a romantic picnic. Picnics are a romantic notion already, so it doesn’t matter if you don’t have the dough to spring for Champagne and caviar. Pack an extra brownbag lunch or zip through your favorite drive-through, then head for a nearby park or spread a pretty cloth on your patio or even your living room floor.
5. Write a poem or a song. Trust me, ANY poem or song you write yourself is likely to thrill your beloved, but if you can’t summon the courage, copy a favorite poem or download “your” song and present those, instead.
4. Send a love letter. Address it to the love of your life and rave about all your beloved’s qualities that you most admire. Deliver it in person or by snail-mail. If you haven’t met your soulmate yet, or if your beloved has died, send it anyway, via methods prized by sages in varied cultures: burn it with fragrant incense, tie it to a tree limb to blow in the wind or set it adrift in a body of water. (Love the earth, too: use easily biodegradable, recycled paper.)
3. Kiss someone: your spouse, your lover, your friends, your kids, your grandkids, your dog or cat. Be generous: throw in a hug or two. If your loved ones are far away, call ‘em up and blow a kiss over the phone.
2. Make your own valentines. Find some pretty paper and cut out hearts. Even recycled junk mail and magazine pages will do. Jazz ‘em up with lace, paint, interesting dried stuff from the desert or other found objects. Leave a few unsigned ones around on desks and doorsteps (extra points for thinking of people who aren’t likely to get any other Valentines on Feb. 14).
And the No.1 all time best way to celebrate Valentines Day:
1. Say “I love you.” Say it as many times as possible to everybody you’ve ever loved. Repeat it to your Creator. Face the wind and whisper it to unmet and departed loves. Keep saying it on every day that isn’t Feb. 14, too.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at dmoore@lcsun-news.com