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Sat Dec 15, 2012, 08:59 AM

Real Geronimo was wily fighter whose skill lay in avoiding war, author claims


Apache chief Geronimo (1829-1909). Photograph: Corbis

Who was Geronimo? For white Americans, he was the most feared and hated Indian warrior of his time the epitome of the merciless savage bent on slaughering them and their families.

Later, as the US came to terms with its harsh treatment of Native Americans, the Apache leader would emerge as a different figure: the noble hero fighting to defend his land, people and way of life.

A new book strips away both simple perceptions. The figure who emerges is a complex one: a spiritual warrior, who converted to Christianity before he died, with a deep and abiding hatred of Mexicans rather than Americans, and who was capable of great brutality.

Geronimo is the latest book by Robert Utley, one of the greatest contemporary writers on the American west and author of an acclaimed 1993 biography of the Sioux chief Sitting Bull.

Moving with the times: Geronimo in 1908 in Oklahoma. Photograph: Hulton Getty

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