Author Morris Edward Opler, who interviewed Apache elders in the 1930s, believed Geronimo wasn’t a chief in the Apache sense of the term. Geronimo accepted Naiche, a son of Cochise, as the tribal commander-in-chief.
Geronimo was an Apache shaman. He believed the soldier’s bullets could never kill him, and they never did. He did have some followers, but most of them were kin—others didn’t view him as a leader because he wasn’t a likable guy.
For further reading, I suggest Edwin Sweeney’s excellent From Cochise to Geronimo and Robert Utley’s Geronimo.
Marshall Trimble is Arizona’s official historian. His latest book is Wyatt Earp: Showdown at Tombstone. If you have a question, write: Ask the Marshall, P.O. Box 8008, Cave Creek, AZ 85327 or e-mail him at email@example.com