Geronimo Goes to Yale

geronimo_smallGeronimo, the last great war chief of the Apache Indians, is not at piece. To be more precise, he may be in pieces. This is the claim from his great grandson, Harlyn Geronimo who launched a lawsuit against the US government this week

Geronimo famously led an Apache uprising with some success against the US forces during the Indian wars towards the end of the 1880’s. He eluded capture by 5,000 soldiers who set out specifically to track him down and was reputed to have magical power. Geronimo eventually surrendered in 1886. 

After being paraded around various Wild West Shows and riding during Roosevelt’s inaugural parade, Geronimo ended his days as a prisoner of war at Fort Sill, Oklahoma dying from pneumonia at the age of 79. According to Fort Sill, the remains of Geronimo are under a stone pyramid monument at Fort Sill where he was buried 100 years ago.

Harlyn believes that some of his ancestor’s bones have in fact gone to university.skull_bones_tombBizarrely, he believes that his great grandfather’s skull is currently being fetishized at Yale’s infamous ‘Skull & Bones’ fraternity society. Famous alumni include the current ex-presidents, Bush & Son. 

Harlyn is seeking an order to dig up Geronimo’s grave and recover all his ancestor’s relics so that they can be re-buried at the site of his birth in New Mexico. Has this man lost his marbles? Clearly he, like most, has supernatural beliefs about the bones of the deceased and the need to re-unite the remains in death. We had a similar case in Bristol a few years back, where angry parents where horrified to discover that small samples of body tissue removed during the autopsy of their dead children where being kept in storage for analysis. The parents demanded that these various slivers of diseased tissue were buried again with their children as if somehow their children were not complete and could not be laid to rest. 

Meanwhile, Harlyn, who is now 81, has been mocked by the authorities but I think there is some merit to the old indian’s concerns. Apparently, a letter from 1918 from one Yale Bonesman to another, was discovered by researchers a few years ago which read, “The skull of the worthy Geronimo the Terrrible, exhumed ffrom Fort Sill by your club…is now safe inside [the clubhouse] together with his well worn femurs, bit & saddle horn.”

And who was alleged to have committed this act of grave-robbing? None other than Prescott Bush, the grandfather of George W.


Filed under In the News, supernatural

6 responses to “Geronimo Goes to Yale

  1. I don’t know about other Yanks, but I personally am always conflicted when it comes to Native Americans. *cue groaning by those fearing new age nonsense*

    Don’t worry, I don’t have ‘dream catchers’ hanging in my windows. Seriously, it’s difficult to criticise a culture that was literally decimated and left too crippled and portionless to integrate with the modern (largely white) world. [Even argumentative cynics can’t deny that.] That’s not to say I’m treating their position as at all pathetic, more that it’s as much a disgrace as any genocide or ethnic cleansing. (fyi – I come from Florida, where ‘Seminole’ is now only synonymous with gambling.)

    To me, aboriginal cultures are the strongest examples of how blurred the line between unfounded superstition (which requires rational balance) and beliefs which fundamentally characterise the colour and richness of a group of people – and are imperative to humanity.

    That isn’t worded well, but I guess I’m trying to say I personally don’t feel justified in criticising Native Americans who are trying to bring their own culture back into relevance. Is it really ridiculous to want your ancestor’s remains to be returned from people who basically stole them? Maybe Harlyn is even considering the tourism potential of the remains, which is a significant means of income for reservations.

    Fundamentalist rationalists call me an apologist, particularly if they know that I have a 19th c Cherokee grandmother. My response: not only is it extremely common to have a Native relative (esp. Cherokee) but I am also vehemently opposed to white people poaching on a culture they were not born into, as it’s usually only for self-aggrandisement.

    While I don’t support obtuse fabrication when truth is far more amazing and mystifying, I do believe humans need to hold certain things as sacred. And an entire indigenous population that has had it’s long-held property stolen and it’s people murdered en masse is without doubt owed more sanctity than U.S. ‘authorities’, in my opinion.

    (Sorry for huge comment Bruce! Just got a bit worked up on this one)

  2. poietes


    Although I don’t believe that I can claim any Native American blood in my very mixed bloodlines, I happen to agree with you. I, too, believe that humans, societies need to hold certain things as sacred.

    What was done to the entire indigenous population of this land was egregious and arrogant and that a society composed of the privileged took it upon themselves to relocate a warrior’s bones in a clubhouse reflects more of this arrogance as it has been passed down through generations.

    Harlyn Geronimo needs no reason to have his ancestor’s bones returned to him. These are not mere cells that are being saved for investigative purposes. These are bones that have been placed irreverently in a Who’s Who fraternity house.

    It speaks poorly of this country’s national history that this man must ask for something that belongs to the few remaining Apache as a matter of recompense if nothing else.

  3. Somehow, it makes perfect, perverted sense to me that George Herbert Walker Bush thought it was perfectly fine to rob a grave at a military installation and fetishize the skull of Geronimo up at Yale. There is a direct link between the mentality behind that “prank” and the mentality that facilitated the current economic BS. Whether there is any rational justification to wanting your relatives’ remains where you think they belong – it’s not right that some thieves should be drinking scotch while they admire the stuff they stole from you — Rather like Bernie Madoff or that Merill Lynch CEO with the $1400 trash can.
    Is it superstition of one kind or another or simply narcissistic hubris? Wasn’t the guy who was going to pay by the pound for the albino baby head a banker?
    Mercy! I’m going back to bed.
    (ps: I signed the petition)

  4. brucehood

    Thanks Tricia,
    They actually did a big 2-pg spread on this story in the UK 2 days after I posted it here. I guess we just really find the skull&bones a very sinister group. There again, I don’t know why … we were the nation that created the masons sect .

  5. bohemianwriter1

    Someone ought to break into Yale and retrieve his remains back to Arizona!

    If no one has the guts to do it, I’ll be more than happy to do that task!

    I owe the old bastard that much…

  6. Anonymous

    I think that this is so true in many ways and that “The Skull and Bones Society” souldn’t be talking the remains of people. They need to respect people and people’s beliefs.

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