AMERICAN EXPERIENCE: Legends of the Wild West continues with Wyatt Earp at 7:00 pm and Geronimo at 8:00 pm.
WYATT EARP: He has been portrayed in countless movies and television shows by some of Hollywood's greatest actors, including Henry Fonda, Jimmy Stewart and, more recently, Kevin Costner, but these popular fictions belie the complexities and flaws of a man whose life is a lens on politics, justice and economic opportunity on the American frontier. As a young man, Wyatt Earp was a caricature of the Western lawman, spending his days drinking in saloons, gambling, visiting brothels and gaining notoriety as the legendary gunman in the shootout at the OK Corral in Tombstone, Arizona. Shortly after his death in 1929, distressed Americans down on their luck transformed Wyatt Earp into a folk hero: a central figure in the American narrative of how the west was won, a man who took control of his own destiny.
GERONIMO: Born around 1820, Geronimo grew into a leading warrior and healer of the Chiricahua. But after his tribe was relocated to an Arizona reservation in 1872, he became a focus of the fury of terrified white settlers and of the growing tensions that divided Apaches struggling to survive under almost unendurable pressures. To angry whites, Geronimo became the archfiend, perpetrator of unspeakable savage cruelties. To his supporters, he remained the embodiment of proud resistance, the upholder of the old Chiricahua ways. To other Apaches, especially those who had come to see the white man's path as the only viable road, Geronimo was a stubborn troublemaker, unbalanced by his unquenchable thirst for vengeance, whose actions needlessly brought the enemy's wrath down on his own people. At a time when surrender to the reservation and acceptance of the white man's civilization seemed to be the Indians' only realistic options, Geronimo and his tiny band of Chiricahuas fought on. The final holdouts, they became the last Native-American fighting force to capitulate formally to the government of the United States.
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