Did the Apache Call Their Great Leader Geronimo or His Original Name, Goyahkla?

Apache Geronimo Goyahkla Marshall Trimble True West Magazine

Did the Apache call their great leader Geronimo or his original name, Goyahkla?

Al Maurine
Tucson, Arizona

Geronimo, a prominent leader and shaman, was a Bedonkohe Apache. His given name was Goyahkla or, “The One Who Yawns.” Some say the name Geronimo is a corruption of his given name; others believe he was such a brave and “take no prisoners” warrior that the Mexican soldiers invoked the name of Saint Jerome when facing him in battle. They had good reason to fear him as the Mexican government had put a bounty on Apache scalps, and soldiers had murdered his mother, wife and three daughters. As a result, he was usually on the vengeance trail against the Mexicans. So it’s unlikely that the Apache would have used the Mexican name for Goyahkla.

Marshall Trimble is Arizona’s official historian and vice president of the Wild West History Association. His latest book is Arizona Outlaws and Lawmen; The History Press, 2015. If you have a question, write: Ask the Marshall, P.O. Box 8008, Cave Creek, AZ 85327 or email him at marshall.trimble@scottsdalecc.edu.

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Marshall Trimble

Marshall Trimble is Arizona’s official historian and the Wild West History Association’s vice president. His latest book is 2018’s Arizona Oddities: A Land of Anomalies and Tamales. Send your question, with your city/state of residence, to marshall.trimble@scottsdalecc.edu or Ask the Marshall, P.O. Box 8008, Cave Creek, AZ 85327.