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WILD JUSTICE by Michael Lieder


The People of Geronimo vs. the United States

by Michael Lieder & illustrated by Jake Page

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-679-45183-8
Publisher: Random House

 A well-shaped, detailed history of an Apache band tested in battle and in the courtroom. Washington attorney Lieder and New Mexico writer Page offer a vivid history of the Chiricahua Apache, who inhabited what is now southeastern Arizona until 1886, when, after Geronimo's uprising, they were removed from their lands. Every Chiricahua man, woman, and child was treated as a prisoner of war, ``whether or not they had participated in warfare against the United States or were then capable of doing so.'' Relocated to Florida, then Alabama, then Oklahoma, the Chiricahuas were finally merged with the Mescalero Apache band on a reservation in southern New Mexico. They were then forgotten, the authors write, and edged to bureaucratic extinction until the 1940s, when a federal commission met to consider Indian claims to lost territory. The Indian Claims Commission, established by order of President Truman in 1946, took its time in deciding whether the Chiricahuas had established ``use and occupancy'' in the lands that had been taken from them and in determining the value of those lands, the site of billions of dollars worth of gold, silver, and copper. Finally, in the late 1970s, the government awarded the Chiricahuas $22 million, ``the seventh-largest award issued by the Commission in an aboriginal land claim,'' more than 40 times the sum the Chiricahuas sought-- but a far smaller settlement, in the authors' view, than they deserved. Lieder and Page relate the complex story of the Chiricahuas' legal odyssey well, although they gloss over internal divisions within the band. (Some Apache leaders, for instance, wanted to lease the Mescalero Reservation as a nuclear-waste dump, a source of bitter controversy.) A worthy addition to the history of the struggle for Native American rights.