Pueblo Revolt

August 6, 2021

Since time immemorial, our Pueblo history has been filled with resilience and resistance, from everyday subsistence activities of living on our lands to life-changing events that require a larger collaborative community effort, such as the Pueblo Revolt of 1680. Through the centuries, we have adapted and stayed strong. Resilience runs through our blood.

We are here today because of our ancestors.

Read on to learn about the Pueblo Revolt of 1680 and the leader, Po’pay. Visit the Pueblo Revolt Online Exhibit for more about the Po’pay statues, knotted cord, Indigenous Wisdom Curriculum, recipe tribute, and presentations.

On August 28, the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center turns forty-five! The Center has certainly changed and expanded through the decades, added artwork and programs, and continues to educate visitors about our resilient history.

Monthly Feature: Pueblo Revolt

On August 10, 1680, the Pueblo nations of New Mexico rose up against the Spanish colonizers. For over eighty years, the Pueblo people suffered violence, cruelty, and hunger; exploitation of labor and resources; harassment and persecution for practicing long-held religious traditions that are interwoven in daily life; and psychological and physical stress. Pueblo leaders realized negotiations with the Spaniards was useless.

Each Pueblo community is an autonomous nation. Never before had they banded together. The Pueblo Revolt of 1680 was the most successful uprising against colonial intruders by an assembly of Indigenous people who had developed a reputation as a peaceful tribe. After being pushed out, the Spaniards were not able to successfully return for twelve years.

The Revolt helped ensure cultural survival and demonstrated the resilience of the Pueblo people. It is one reason the Pueblos continue to maintain their lands, languages, customs, and religion. Today, the All Pueblo Council of Governors (APCG) continues to fight for the well-being of the Pueblo nations.

This award-winning account of the Pueblo Revolt, originally published in 1973 as Red Power on the Rio Grande, is told from the point of view of the Native American villagers of the Rio Grande Valley. Folsom equates the Pueblos’ desire to control their own destiny to that of the Americans in 1776 and reveals the harshness of Spanish rule.

Not only were the Pueblos taxed and forced to labor for the Spanish, they were frequently sold into slavery and their religion was attacked and suppressed by missionaries. Under the direction of Popé, the Pueblos overcame their traditional reliance on local leadership and joined together in a brilliantly conceived and successful attack on Spanish power. This pivotal time in Pueblo history is powerfully and compelling retold here.

 . . . Yet today, more than three centuries later, crucial questions about the Pueblo Revolt remain unanswered. How did Pope succeed in his brilliant plot? And what happened in the Pueblo world between 1680 and 1692, when a new Spanish force reconquered the Pueblo peoples with relative ease?

David Roberts set out to try to answer these questions and to bring this remarkable historical episode to life. He visited Pueblo villages, talked with Native American and Anglo historians, combed through archives, discovered backcountry ruins, sought out the vivid rock art panels carved and painted by Puebloans contemporary with the events, and pondered the existence of centuries-old Spanish documents never seen by Anglos.

The Pueblo Revolt of 1680 changed the course of history. It was the only war that American Indians ever won against the Europeans. In this new nonfiction account, Jake Page delves into the events leading up to the revolt, its aftermath, and the less well-known second revolt.

Join IPCC Cultural Educator, Jon Ghahate, for a Pueblo Book Club discussion on Tuesday, August 10, in person (Silver Room) or online (Zoom) from 2:00-4:00 pm MDT.


Po’pay

Po’pay (Ohkay Owingeh–San Juan Pueblo)

Born about 1630, Po’pay – whose name means “Ripe Squash” in Tewa – was a farmer and part of the medicine society. In 1675, Po’pay and 46 other Pueblo leaders were convicted of sorcery. Those practicing traditional religious practices were tortured and sometimes executed by the Spanish settlers to New Mexico. He was flogged.

Pueblo leaders had been meeting to discuss how to approach and deal with the Spaniards. They agreed that the Spaniards needed to leave. or suffer the consequences. Po’pay was chosen as leader. August 13 was chosen as the day the Pueblos would begin to force the Spaniards out of the Pueblo homelands. War was inevitable. Two runners with knotted cords were sent out to notify the distant Pueblos of the plans but were arrested and questioned. The revolt started on August 10th.

Cliff Fragua (sculptor) describes the sculpture:

In my rendition, he holds in his hands items that will determine the future existence of the Pueblo people. The knotted cord in his left hand was used to determine when the Revolt would begin. As to how many knots were used is debatable, but I feel that it must have taken many days to plan and notify most of the Pueblos. The bear fetish in his right hand symbolizes the center of the Pueblo world, the Pueblo religion. The pot behind him symbolizes the Pueblo culture, and the deerskin he wears is a humble symbol of his status as a provider. The necklace that he wears is a constant reminder of where life began, and his clothing consists of a loincloth and moccasins in Pueblo fashion. His hair is cut in Pueblo tradition and bound in a chongo. On his back are the scars that remain from the whipping he received for his participation and faith in the Pueblo ceremonies and religion.

Cliff Fragua (Walatowa–Jemez Pueblo) had no visual reference for Po’pay. The seven-foot statue, carved from pink Tennessee marble, was chosen because its hue “is more closer to our skin color.”

A second Po’pay statue at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center was crafted with a stronger statement – a broken crucifix and a Pueblo drum, which represent traditional Pueblo songs and dances.

Installed in 2005 at the National Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol, Po’pay is one of seven statues that honors a Native American and is the only statue carved by a Native American sculptor.


Teaching Resources

The Indigenous Wisdom Curriculum provides teachers with an educational plan for K-12 students in New Mexico to learn about Pueblo culture and history. This curriculum serves as a counternarrative to the New Mexico history presented in schools today.

Lesson 1: First Encounters with Spanish Explorers: A Pueblo Experience by Dr. Christine Sims (Acoma Pueblo)

Content Area: Social Studies – NM History

Grade Levels: Middle school, 6-8, adaptable to high school levels

Lesson 2: Creating Movement through Resilience by Leroy “Buster” Silva, (Laguna and Acoma Pueblo)

Content Area: Health and Wellness

Grade Levels: High school, 9-12


Videos

The first American Revolution occurred along the Rio Grande in northern New Mexico when the Pueblo Indians broke from the Spanish Empire. The 1680 Pueblo Revolt has shaped the deeply contested territories of the US-Mexico borderlands even today. Native and Chicano narrators recall his living history through humor, music, and cartoons.

Cultural Educator Jon Ghahate (Laguna & Zuni Pueblo) explores the history and lasting significance of the Pueblo Revolt.


References

Architect on the Capitol. (n.d.). About the National Statuary Hall Collection. https://www.aoc.gov/explore-capitol-campus/art/about-national-statuary-hall-collection

Ohkay Owingeh. (n.d.). Po’pay in DC. http://ohkay.org/popay/

Sando, J. S. (2005). Po’pay: Leader of the first American revolution. Clear Light Publishing.

*The term Indigenous is used broadly to include those labeled Native American, American Indian, Alaska Native, Hawaiian, First Nations, Aboriginal, and others such as the Sami (Finland) and Ainu (Japan). Native American and American Indian are used interchangeably in this blog.

About the Author

Jonna C. Paden, Librarian and Archivist, is a tribally enrolled member of Acoma Pueblo. As part of the Circle of Learning cohort, she holds a Masters in Library and Information Science from San José State University where she focused on the career pathway of Archives and Records Management. She is also the archivist for the New Mexico Library Association (NMLA) and previous (2020) and current Chair for the New Mexico Library Association (NMLA) Native American Libraries – Special Interest Group (NALSIG).

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