The terrible death of the great Apache chief Geronimo is linked to the New Mexico fort known as Fort Sumner. During the Navajo Long Walk, when the tribe was forcibly relocated to the Bosque Redondo Reservation, the soldiers constructed a fort in 1862 and gave it the name Fort Sumner. Its original purpose was to imprison and control members of the Navajo and Mescalero Apache tribes.
The “Long Walk of the Navajo,” a time of severe pain and hardship faced by the Navajo people beginning in 1863, began at Fort Sumner. Hunger, exposure, and the loss of their traditional way of life plagued the thousands of Navajo who were marched hundreds of miles to the reservation.
The Navajo and Mescalero Apache people who lived on the reservation endured tremendous suffering as a result of the lack of services and the severity of the environment. The military’s use of the fort ended in 1868, putting a stop to the Bosque Redondo project.
It was in Fort Sill, Oklahoma, where the famous Apache chief Geronimo and his companions were initially detained after the Apache wars. From 1886 until 1894, they were forced to live in inhumane conditions and were severely limited in their freedom of movement while imprisoned at Fort Sumner.
In 1881, Fort Sumner was officially closed to the public. Bosque Redondo Memorial and Fort Sumner State Monument now stand on the former battlefield to commemorate the Native Americans who persevered during this difficult period in history.