Geronimo and Naiche

Geronimo and Naiche on Horseback. (Courtesy of Smithsonian Institute National Anthropological Archives)

Cochise, Geronimo, and Naiche were warriors. They will remain legends in Apache history. The Apache fought against the Spanish, Mexican, and United States governments for hundreds of years to keep their way of life in their homeland. One of the most respected leaders in Apache history was Cochise, chief of the Chiricahua band. Cochise was known as an honorable peacemaker who kept his word. As promised, he allowed the mail and overland stage to pass through his territory. In February of 1861, Cochise was accused of a crime committed by someone else. Cochise declared his innocence, but the military authorities refused to listen. This led to war that would last for ten years. Cochise fought so well that he and his Chiricahua band were offered a peace treaty and given their own reservation in exchange for their promise to remain peaceful. When Cochise died in June of 1874, the U.S. government refused to keep its promise. The Apache people had kept their word with honor. The U.S. government did not.

Naiche, Cochise’s son, continued the Apache’s fight against the government of broken promises. By 1886, only Naiche and Geronimo with thirty-six men, women, and children remained to fight. Five thousand soldiers, which represented one-fourth of the U.S. military at the time, were unable to capture them.

These Apache warriors ultimately agreed to terms of surrender. The Chiricahua joined 469 other Apaches being held prisoners in Florida. The lies and betrayal of government officials cut deep in the spirit of the Apache people. Having been removed from family and homeland, Geronimo said, “All we want is to be fed and be released as prisoners and given land and homes that we can call our own.”

Geronimo and Naiche2

Geronimo and Christian Naiche at Fort Sill. (Courtesy of Smithsonian Institute National Anthropological Archives)

Naiche, the leader of the Chiricahua and son of Cochise, spent twenty-seven years with other Apache prisoners until their release in 1913. These men and their families were held as prisoners of war longer than any other people in U.S. history. During these years of captivity, Naiche finally found freedom. He came to know another who had been betrayed and wounded named Jesus. Weary of the broken promises of men, he put his trust in the promises of the God of the Bible. He learned of the love of Jesus Christ, the Savior of all nations. When Naiche put his trust in Jesus Christ, he received eternal life. He turned from his sin and received forgiveness. Naiche came to know the peace and power that only comes to those who have become one with their Creator. So sincere was his faith in Jesus Christ that he changed his name to Christian Naiche.

Naiche with his wife

Naiche with his wife, Ha-o-zinne. (Courtesy of Smithsonian Institute National Anthropological Archives)

Christian Naiche was concerned about his fellow prisoners, including Geronimo. Christian Naiche was joyful when Geronimo began showing interest in Christianity. Geronimo said that Christianity was better than the religion of his forefathers. Seeking to gain additional power, he attended religious services for a period of time. After twenty-three years as a prisoner, Geronimo’s soul left his aged body and passed into eternity on February 17, 1909. At Geronimo’s funeral, Christian Naiche spoke to the gathering in his native tongue. He remembered the days of the warpath. He praised Geronimo’s bravery and skill as a war leader and told how he loyally had kept the peace made at the surrender. But, he said that Geronimo had refused to accept Christianity; thus being a failure in the chief thing in life. Christian Naiche closed by asking the people gathered there to learn from this example.

What did Naiche gain by following Jesus?
Naiche received God’s promise of eternal life. He found forgiveness of sins and harmony with his Creator. He had found healing for the wounds of his spirit. This healing came through Jesus Who was wounded for our sins on the cross (see: Isaiah 53:5). The Bible tells us that we have all sinned. Even though the cost of sin is death, God’s gift to us is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord (see: Romans 3:23 and 6:23). John 3:16-18 says, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He that believes on Him is not condemned: but he that believes not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”

Romans 10:13 says, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

What did Naiche lose by following Jesus?
He lost his anger, hatred, and bitterness. Jesus teaches us to forgive and love our enemies. Like Christian Naiche, we need to understand God’s thinking, so we can live at peace with problems that we cannot change. Only God can help the wounded to win the battle over anger, bitterness, and revenge. He can bring the victory as shown by love and forgiveness. Ephesians 4:32 says, “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” Verses 43, 44, and 46 of Matthew chapter five say, “Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate your enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye…?

Why would Naiche accept the God of the Bible?
Naiche could accept Jesus because He is the God of all creation. He is not just the God of one people group. God wants all people to be saved from their sins (see: Romans 10:12; II Peter 3:9; Revelation 5:9).

What are my choices?
We can choose our own path. Our own path leads to hurt, anger, sorrow, and defeat. Satan, the enemy of God wants us to choose our own way. Satan is a murderer, liar, thief, destroyer, and a deceiver (see: John 8:44; John 10:10; II Corinthians 11:3,14-15; Revelation 2:9).

Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes unto the Father, but by Me” (John 14:6). “If ye continue in My word, then are ye My disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31-32).

What do I need to do to follow Jesus?
Believe and trust Him. Receive His gift, paid for by His death on the cross. Talk to God in prayer. There are no magic words. Speak from your heart with Him. Pray something like this: “Dear Father in Heaven, I know that I am a sinner. I have done many bad things. I do not like my life to be like this. I ask for Your Son, Jesus, to come into my heart and help me change. I ask You to forgive me of my sins and heal my wounded spirit. I ask that I may be saved from the punishment of Hell. I ask that I may learn more about You, my Father in Heaven, and of Your love for me. I ask that I may follow Your Son, Jesus. Let me learn more of how He gave His life for me and paid for my sins on the cross. I now accept the free gift of salvation that You offer me. In the name of Jesus I pray, Amen.

Can I really live the Christian life?
With God’s strength, we are promised the victory, but we must fight this battle with spiritual weapons (see: I John 4:4; II Corinthians 10:4-5; Ephesians 6:13-18). The Apache taught their children in the warriors’ tradition to be strong. We must be strong and learn how to say “no” to our spiritual enemy, Satan (see: Ephesians 6:10-12; II Timothy 2:1-4; James 4:7, I Peter 5:8-9).