Geronimo had been fighting Mexicans since the 1850s. He lived on the Chiricahua reservation from 1872 till 1876. When Cochise died and the reservation was closed Geronimo began raids on the Southwest.
This movie has been described as exploring the debate between assimilation and resistance, a theme that runs through many Indian movies.
Geronimo fought against ever-increasing numbers of both Mexican and United States troops and became famous for his daring exploits and numerous escapes from capture. At the last, these 38 men, women and children evaded 5000 U.S. troops (one fourth of the army at the time) and the Mexican army for a year. His forces became the last major force of independent Indian warriors who refused to acknowledge the United States Government in the American West. This came to an end on September 4, 1886, when Geronimo surrendered to United States Army.
The movie seems to be based on Lt. Charles Gatewood's memoirs, and he was a major character in the movie, played by Jason Patric. It also had Geronimo played by Wes Studi, General Crook played by Gene Hackman, Al Sieber played by Robert Duvall, and Lt. Britton Davis played by Matt Damon. It also had the historical characters of Mangus, Chato and Ulzanna played by Native actors.
An interesting scene in the movie has the Apache Scout, Chato, who has ridden with the Calvary against Geronimo being dismissed from the army at his capture. He is then herded into a cattle car with the rest of the Chiricahuas. He then tells Geronimo, "you were right to fight the white eyes, everything they said to me was a lie".
The final word in this movie seems to have been that the Indians who tried to assimilate were the ones who had made a mistake.