Geronimo and the Last of the Indian Wars

Geronimo and the Last of the Indian Wars
Frances Cleveland: Religion, Social Issues and Reform

Skill: Middle School
Time Required: One week


In 1886, during the second year of the Cleveland Administration, the Apache warrior, Geronimo, finally surrendered, marking the end of significant Indian Wars in the United States.  The story of Geronimo, told in his own words and the words of others, is a story that should not be forgotten by either white or native Americans, because it is a story intricately woven into the fabric of American culture and society.


The purpose of this lesson is to acquaint students with the life of Geronimo, and with the history of the Indian wars in the United States, particularly from 1866 to 1890. 

Materials Required:

Access to the Internet Access to print materials Paper, pens and pencils, or word processor Art supplies, including tag board for posters PowerPoint presentation program (optional)


1.  Begin the lesson by showing students the map (below) of the Indian tribes in the United States.  If possible, print out this map for distribution to students so they can plot the progress of the Indian Wars.
2.  Point out that western expansion in the United States involved, and among other things, the conquering of a large number of Indian tribes in all parts of the country.  Beginning in the 15th century, the Indian Wars lasted until 1890 and cost untold numbers of lives on both sides.
3.  The last really significant Indian leader to go up against the U.S. Army was Geronimo.  Many stories and legends have come down to us about him, some of which were pretty much invented in order to cast him in a negative light. 

4.  Give students an opportunity to explore the websites listed below, as well as other websites and whatever print materials are available.  When they’ve explored a bit, ask each student to select one aspect of either the Indian Wars or the life of Geronimo, and do one of the following:

  • Write a short essay on the subject
  • Make a poster demonstrating knowledge of the subject
  • Write a “contemporary” news account about the subject
  • Write a poem on the subject
  • Write a letter to a member of the tribe related to the subject, outlining your reflections on the subject
  • Create a PowerPoint presentation on the subject
  • Other?

5.  When the projects are completed, select a day in which all students can share their findings and their projects.

Extending the Lesson:

This lesson can be extended by turning the results of students’ research into a scrapbook, or a hall display for the school to see.

Sources & Resources:

Utley, Robert M. and  Washburn, Wilcomb E. Indian Wars.3rd ed. New York: Mariner Books, 2002.
Yenne, Bill.  Indian Wars: The Campaign for the American West.  Yardley, PA: Westholme Publishing, 2005.
Map: Tribes of the Indian Nation 

Indian Wars Timetable 

National Indian Wars Association 


Geronimo, His Own Story 

Geronimo, The Last Apache Warrior 

This lesson was developed by Averil McClelland, Kent State University.