5.3.7 Revolt of the Pueblo Indians of New Mexico and Otermín's Attempted Reconquest, 1680-1682


After the conquest of northern New Mexico by Juan de Oñate at the turn of the seventeenth century, Spanish authorities systematically subjugated the inhabitants of the pueblos. Indians who had lived and worshiped independently for centuries were forced to abandon their religions, adopt Christianity, and pay tribute to Spanish rulers. Their traditional centers of worship (kivas) were destroyed along with the sacramental objects (kachinas) with which their ceremonies and devotions had always been performed. Resistance to Spanish rule was met with imprisonment, torture, and amputations.

After three generations of oppression, in the spring of 1680, the Pueblo Indians rose up to overthrow the Spanish. A religious leader from Taos Pueblo named Pope (sometimes found as Popay) secretly organized a widespread rebellion to occur throughout the region on a single day. Planning took shape silently during the summer of 1680 in more than 70 communities, from Santa Fe and Taos in the Rio Grande valley to the Hopi pueblos nearly 300 miles west. On the night of August 10, 1680, Indians in more than two dozen pueblos simultaneously attacked the Spanish authorities. A force of 2,500 Indian warriors sacked and burned the colonial headquarters in Santa Fe. By the time the revolt succeeded, Indian fighters had killed more than 400 Spanish soldiers and civilians (including two-thirds of the Catholic priests in the region) and had driven the surviving Europeans back to El Paso.

The Indian leaders then restored their own religious institutions and set up a government that lasted until 1692. The Pueblo Revolt of 1680 was the single most successful act of resistance by Native Americans against a European invader. It established Indian independence in the pueblos for more than a decade, and even after Spanish domination was re-imposed it forced the imperial authorities to observe religious tolerance. Ever since the seventeenth century, the cross and the kiva have existed side by side in pueblo communities.

The documents presented here give both Spanish and Indian versions of the events of August 1680.

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