Geronimo, was born Goyakla, meaning ‘one who yawns,’ in the 1820s near the headwaters of the Gila River. This would be in the Gila Wilderness today. He was born into the Bedonkohe Chiricahua tribe.
His early life was peaceful until the 1850s when the Bedonkohe group went to Mexico to trade with the Mexicans in a town the Apaches called Kas-ki-yeh. The women and children remained in camp while the men went into town. When they returned, they discovered that Mexicans from a nearby town had attacked the camp and massacred the women and children. Among those killed were Geronimo’s widowed mother, wife and three children. When the Apaches attacked the town in revenge, Geronimo fought so wildly that the Mexicans cried out to San Geronimo (Saint Jerome) for aid. The name became applied to Geronimo and stuck.
Geronimo spent most of the rest of his life seeking revenge. He became a war leader and led many raids on Mexican towns and villages, as well as settlements in southwestern New Mexico and southeastern Arizona.