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American Southwest: The Great Pueblo Revolt of 1680 Research Paper

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Introduction

Modern social progress and civilization are the outcomes of numerous wars, conflicts, and ambiguous relationships among nations. There were always people who were eager to gain control over other groups and demonstrate their superiority in different forms. As a result, the citizens of the conquered land had to follow new orders, accept foreign rules, and change their routine styles of life as per the requests and needs of foreigners. Some of them were not ready to lose their freedoms and raised rebellions in order to demonstrate their rights and true intentions. In the history of the American Southwest region, there were many such situations, and the Great Pueblo Revolt of 1680 was one of them. Before the period of Spanish expeditions during the 1550s, Pueblo people lived their normal lives and took care of each other and their land (now known as New Mexico). As soon as the Spanish invaders reached the territory, certain changes could not be ignored. The Pueblo people were not satisfied with the attitudes, restrictions, and limitations; many cultural, environmental, political, economic, and religious concerns remained unsolved.

New contradictions and conflicts occurred between old and new citizens of the Pueblo land. Many years of barbarism and cruelty of the Spanish people towards the Pueblo Indians resulted in the Pueblo Revolt.1 2 Another significant contribution included the Spanish intention to change the spiritual beliefs of the locals and introduce Christianity as the only acceptable religion.3 In this paper, the causes, development, and outcomes of the revolution will be discussed to prove the worth of this event in the history of Pueblo people, as well as in the history of the United States. There were several key figures and events that affected the progress of the revolt and its economic, cultural, social, and religious aspects. Although the pueblos’ independence from the Spanish did not last long, the Pueblo Revolt was the first successful attempt by Indians to gain freedom from Spanish attempts to eliminate the pueblos’ religion and culture.

The Pueblo Revolt Background

There are many social, political, and economic aspects, as well as people and events that influenced the development of the Pueblo Revolt in 1680. Spanish borderlands were quickly established on the Pueblo land, restricting the rights and freedoms of its local citizens.4 Francisco Vásquez de Coronado was one the critical figures in the history of the Pueblo people because it was he who brought the first full-scale expedition to the region (New Mexico) with five Franciscan missionaries in 1550.5 The main reason to explain this invasion was the intention to find out wealth and prosperity on the new land. However, positive results were not achieved, and the expedition had to return to Mexico City and extend the date of colonization until 1598.6 Juan de Oñate y Salazar led a group of Spanish men and reached the Pueblo country by using cruel campaigns and killing or torturing innocent people.7 When he began executions of his own men, his reputation was destroyed, and he lost his powers in several years.

At the beginning of Spanish colonization, Franciscan missionaries demonstrated their good intentions to Pueblo Indians and wanted to collaborate with the locals in order to use available natural and human resources and enrich themselves. Still, the same failure was observed, and invaders turned their positive attitudes and understanding into hostile behaviors and coercion.8 9 The Pueblo locals did not believe they could resist the Spanish power and continue living under their conditions.

The next crucial event in the history of the revolt was the decision of the Franciscans to use Christianity as the only acceptable faith in the region. The Spanish thought that the absence of progress was caused by the religious beliefs of the Pueblo people. They found only their own beliefs as true and effective and defined other religions as false and provocative.10 In their turn, local farmers did not want to accept all the Spanish changes, promoting fears and anger as the basics of a revolt.

New political and economic conditions were also unsuitable for many Pueblo Indians. For example, instead of establishing equal rights and decision-making, the Spanish people enslaved Indians, so they did hard work at the expense of their health and self-respect.11 Slave raiding was explained by the necessity for the Spanish to have people for “mining, cash crop, tribute, and infrastructure labor”.12 In addition, the Pueblo people experienced governmental and political improvements in their everyday life, including the fields of medicine, food, and other goods and services.13 However, if some Spaniards thought that these changes positively influenced the development of the local people, Indians were not always satisfied with the chosen ideas and approaches.

The Spanish Crown introduced two forms of governance policies – encomienda and repartimiento. According to Sando, the encomienda system was characterized by annual food and other resource donations of Pueblo families to the Spaniards to support their military missions and forces.14 The major challenge was that the expectations of the Spanish were higher than the possibilities of the locals. Therefore, many Pueblo families had to starve in order to make such contributions. The repartimiento system implied the necessity of the Pueblo people to work for the Spanish Crown and present a considerable amount of labor annually.15 Many Pueblo Indians followed these rules because they did not want to lose the protection of the Crown against other invaders that could come. At that moment, the Spanish military powers were enough to control and guard the land if the locals followed their instructions.

Before the revolt, certain complications were observed in the environment and the health care system. For example, in the middle of the 1970s, the Pueblo land was challenged by a number of droughts that resulted in famine and fights for food and water.16 Nomadic tribes increased their attacks to find out new sources of existence. The Spanish Crown had to add new restrictions because of the necessity to control interior behaviors and predict possible exterior invasions. In addition, the citizens, both Spanish and Pueblo, were exposed to new diseases that were hard to predict, prevent, control, and treat. Indigenous communities had already experienced the death outcomes of smallpox, influenza, and measles.17 Now, it was necessary to recognize new types of health problems, and even well-educated Spanish could not find out treatment options and save lives. The quality of living conditions was significantly decreased, and Spanish colonists lost their powers in the face of new challenges. Pueblo Indians did not want to wait and decided to take some actions in order to save their lives and diminish the role of Spain in their region.

The Beginning of the Revolt

The beginning of the revolt was predetermined by public discontent with the arrest of several Pueblo Indians. Citizens wanted to retain their moral justice and social identities, using their language and cultural beliefs.18 The appointment of Juan Francisco Treviño as a governor was associated with new brutal activities and hard control of Pueblos’ actions as he wanted to obtain missionaries’ support. In summer 1680, Treviño ordered to arrest 47 religious leaders, and three of them were hanged, including Nambé, San Felipe, and Jéremez.19 Other prisoners were beaten and threatened on the public, so Pueblos did not want to live in fear and began their retaliation. Many Pueblo warriors surrounded Santa Fe and asked to liberate other leaders. Treviño was taken by surprise and had to capitulate because of the inability to predict the next steps of the locals.20 As soon as the prisoners were released, one of the citizens of San Juan Pueblo, Popé, went to his home with the goal to gather people and organize the rebellion.

Due to the fact that Popé died before some information about him was stored and checked, many facts were taken from the interviews with other participants of the revolt. Therefore, it was hard to find the sources where direct, credible information about Popé was given. It was indicated that this man was also known as Pohé-yemo and served as a respected and powerful religious leader in San Juan.21 Because of regular threats from local authorities, Popé had to leave his home and started planning revenge far from the Spaniards. He began his revolution on the territory of Taos Pueblo and quickly found support among the representatives of Tiwa, Tano, and Tewo communities located in the Rio Grand Valley.22 As a leader, Popé demonstrated confidence and desire to change something that resulted in support from other local people who had the same cultural and religious preferences.23 The desire of one person to revenge turned into a surviving procedure of the whole nation.

As soon as all the preparations were done, Pueblo Indians were ready to take certain actions. Cooperation among the Pueblos gained recognition, and the leaders along with the representatives of Navajo and Apache tribes decided to begin the revolt on August 10, 1680, and hit several places simultaneously.24 Different results were achieved at different parts of the valley. A group guided by Popé and directed to the capital of Santa Fe succeeded, and the mission around the Northern Rio Grande River failed, taking the lives of more than 400 Spanish people.25 The Spaniards had arquebuses, swords, and daggers to protect themselves, and the Pueblos used bows and arrows in the battle.26 An exact number of Pueblo lives lost in the revolt remained unknown, but it was said that it was more than it was among the Spaniards.

However, killing many Spaniards was not the goal of the Pueblos. They just wanted to make the invaders leave the land and obtain new opportunities to return to their traditions, religious beliefs, and lifestyles. Popé said that the gods talked to him and gave the orders for the people to destroy the signs or Christianity and other outcomes of Spanish presence.27In their turn, the Spanish invaders were not ready to accept the conditions Pueblos set. Because of the unpredictability of the Pueblo activities, it was easy for the locals to gain control and promote fears in the Spanish citizens.28 When the first wave of the revolt was over, the Pueblos provoked a number of cultural, social, and religious changes to demonstrate their power, abilities, and good intentions.

Cultural and Religious Dimensions of the Revolt Era

Although the leaders of the Pueblo Revolt did not set clear goals and times frames to repair society after the Spanish presence, there were certain cultural and religious dimensions during the revolutionary area that cannot be ignored. Some activities of the Pueblos were directed to improve the quality of religious beliefs, and some changed touched upon social and cultural developments. What the Pueblos did not know was the fact that the Spanish did not leave the land but choose some remote areas (present-day El Paso) to develop new plans of reconquest.29 They continued establishing their old traditions, which proved the absence of any military or political tactics that had to be inherent to the revolution.

The peculiar feature of cultural, social, and religious improvements on the Pueblo land included their interconnection. For example, one of the tasks Popé set when the Spanish left New Mexico was to investigate all the churches and other spiritual places and remove all the objects of Christianity, including altars, books, documents, and ritual images. The necessity to reject Christian civilization on the Pueblo land was explained as the possibility to deal with a direct threat to the local culture, religion, and overall survival for the Pueblos.30 In his intention to motivate people and demonstrate the success of the chosen revolutionary direction, Popé used spiritual stimulation by bathing in the river and washing all the signs of Christianity. However, his ideas became not as effective and enough as he supposed them to be. The leader faced many concerns and misunderstandings when he started ordering to burn houses, tools, livestock, and even seeds that were gained from the Spanish.31 The Pueblos did not notice how they disarmed themselves and became unable to resist new invasions and fight against new enemies.

Despite the evident shortages and weaknesses of the Pueblos’ position, the revolt displayed the characteristic features of a revitalization movement. Liebmann used the investigations of several researchers to prove that the Pueblo Revolt met the criteria of revitalization, including “preexisting stresses of an environmental cultural, and demographic nature”, “leader preaching a message of nativism and revivalism”, “development of a core group of followers”, and successful cultural and social transformations.32 Revitalization helped the Pueblos to build a culture that satisfied the demands and interests of the citizens. Its distinctive characteristic is the presence of not massive but shortened in time activities with a significant outcome on cultural beliefs.

Popé became an example of cultural and religious resistance for ordinary Pueblos. He was a cultural and spiritual leader for several years. His ideas and plans inspired the Pueblo community to understand that the Spanish order was not the only solution for them. Locals could use their own resources and abilities for self-development and national growth. Unfortunately, there are always some groups of people who may challenge the existing power, and the Popé’s situation was not an exception. After several years of the rebellion, Luis Tupatú who was a captain of Picurís Pueblo made a successful attempt to remove Popé from power and implemented his own plan of Indians’ survival.33 Not many sources could be found to investigate the history of Popé, but even Spanish interviews that were documented proved that the role of this individual could not be ignored in American history.

The revolt era after Popé was characterized by certain architectural and social changes. The Pueblos achieved the goal to expel the Spanish from their territory. However, they forgot about the possible outcomes of their freedom and independence from the Spanish invaders. For example, the local Indians did not have guns and horses, as well as they lacked the military power and effective protection. The destruction of Spanish buildings and return to ordinary houses for Pueblo families influenced the lifestyle of the locals and their spatial organization. There were no professional architects in the Valley, and people used their personal experience and limited knowledge to construct more post-revolt villages. New “classically defensive positions on the tops of high, steep-sided mesas, often fortified with walls and bulwarks” were chosen to make sure that “warriors could resist attacks”.34 All these improvements and decisions helped the Pueblos to strengthen their positions and get prepared for new attacks regarding available sources and knowledge.

The Essence of the Pueblo Revolt for the Pueblo People

Taking into consideration all the benefits and challenges the Pueblo people faced before and during the revolt, its essence demonstrated the role of spirituality in human development. The main goal to remove the Spanish colonists from the Pueblo land was achieved. Although the control of the land by the Pueblos did not last long, it was a good result for a person who wanted to revenge after being arrested because of his religious beliefs and readiness to resist the Spanish Crown.

Native Americans or Pueblo Indians were able to understand that their opinions and desires should have a meaning. It was wrong to follow the orders of the Spanish and become their slaves if not physically but spiritually. However, at the same time, the Pueblo Revolt of 1680 showed that there were still many interior and exterior threats. It was not enough to promote and develop social freedoms and religious independence. National relationships had to be established, and the Pueblos began thinking about the methods to introduce their regulations, orders, and laws. The task was to create a society without challenging human rights.

Another important aspect of the revolt was the necessity to identify people for physical, social, and political work. Many Pueblos worked hard to protect their land and built new defensive constructions. The Apache and Navajo did not stop their attempts to establish their colonial authority on the land and interfered with the pueblo coalition in different ways.35 The absence of political unity among the representatives of different Pueblo tribes and the death of Popé contributed to new discontents and doubts in society. The drought was not ended, and people had to survive and share their crops with neighbors in order to avoid new military campaigns.

After the revolt, the Spanish made several attempts to return to the Pueblo land, which caused the appearance of several new figures in power. After the current Spanish governor Otermín failed to resist the Pueblos and gain control over the land, he was replaced by Domingo Jironza Petris de Cruzate. de Cruzate came to El Paso in 1683 and shared his top to change the desperate situation among the Spanish.36 His plans helped the Spanish to recognize their chances to come back to the Santa Fe, but they were not enough to succeed. In 1692, Don Diego de Vargas came to power and began new military campaigns.37It was the last year when the Pueblos were free from colonial domination. There were many Indian allies who supported the ideas of de Vargas and gathered soldiers to conquer the local leaders and civilians and return to the systems of encomienda and repartimiento when the Pueblos had to share their resources with the Spanish and live under their rules.

The Outcomes of the Revolt and Its Significance

The Pueblo Revolution had a number of positive and negative outcomes on Indians, as well as Spanish invaders. One of the major discoveries that were made by both parties was the role of religion and spirituality in Pueblo society. The Spaniards aimed to define some compromises to return to New Mexico because they were afraid to be defeated or removed by the colonizers from other countries. de Vargas introduced several good conditions for Indians, including mercy to the activists and protection to the citizens. However, what the Spanish did not want to leave was their idea of Christianity for all the Pueblos. They believed in the power of one common faith and wanted all the citizens to have the same interests and beliefs. The Pueblos did not believe in the positive intentions of the Spanish Crown and did not hurry up to accept all the conditions. However, in 1692, dissensions between the Pueblo tribes and the Spanish colonists were over.38 In a result of several bloody fights, de Vargas reached the goal and used the support of Piro tribe to proclaim the official return of Spain to the Pueblo land.

Historical research did not provide clear details about the methods of control the Spanish used after the revolt. True experiences and challenges of Pueblo Indians were not properly described as well. However, documented interviews of the Spanish citizens proved that the Pueblos continued following encomienda and repartimiento styles of life. Positive attitudes of the Spaniards were replaced with violent regulations and control. On the one hand, Native Americans lost all their rights and priorities again. On the other hand, the revolutionary period could be used as an evident example that the Pueblos were not ready to protect themselves and their land against other colonists. Therefore, Spanish guidance was one of the real options to the locals during that period of time, and many Indian tribes understood that the benefits could prevail over the negatives.

Conclusion

During the period of America’s colonization, many revolts and revolutions were organized by Native Americans to protect their freedoms and demonstrate their rights. The Pueblo independence from the Spanish invaders was not long, but its meaning and importance have to be underlined in the history of the United States. From the point of view of the Spaniards, their leaders had to re-organize the majority of their attempts to control the Pueblos because of the religious and spiritual beliefs and positions. From the point of view of the Pueblos, they were able to realize the worth of Spanish protection in their lives. Although the local citizens had to share their resources, products, and food to survive the drought, the Spanish could not neglect the fact that they were dependent on these sources. Therefore, the Pueblo Revolt was the event that changed the attitudes of the Spaniards towards the Pueblos and vice versa. Both parties had their pros and cons in regards to this colonization, but this union was inevitable in Native Americans’ history and development.

Bibliography

Aguilar, Joseph R. “Researching the Pueblo Revolt of 1680.” Expedition 55, no.3 (2013): 34-35.

Bowden, Henry Warner. “Spanish Missions, Cultural Conflict and the Pueblo Revolt of 1680.” Church History 44, no. 2 (June 1975): 217-228.

Folsom, Franklin. Indian Uprising on the Rio Grande: The Pueblo Revolt of 1680. Albuquerque, New Mexico: University of New Mexico Press, 1973.

Hackett, Charles W. “The Revolt of the Pueblo Indians of New Mexico in 1680.” The Quarterly of the Texas State Historical Association 15, no. 2 (October 1911): 93-147.

Knaut, Andrew L. The Pueblo Revolt of 1680: Conquest and Resistance in Seventeenth-Century New Mexico. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 2015.

Liebmann, Matthew. (2008). “The Innovative Materiality of Revitalization Movements: Lessons from the Pueblo Revolt of 1680.” American Anthropologist 110, no. 3 (August 2008): 360-372.

Liebmann, Matthew, T. J. Ferguson, and Robert W. Preucel. “Pueblo Settlement, Architecture, and Social Change in the Pueblo Revolt Era, A.D. 1680-1696.” Journal of Field Archaeology 30, no. 1 (2005): 45-60.

Ortiz, Alfonso. “Popay’s Leadership: A Pueblo Perspective on the 1680 Revolt.” In Telling New Mexico: A New History. Edited by Martha Weigle. 107-4. Santa Fe, NM: Museum of New Mexico Press, 2009.

Ponce, Pedro. “Trouble for the Spanish: The Pueblo Revolt of 1680.” Humanities 23, no. 6 (November/December 2002): 20-24.

“Pueblo Revolt (1680).” Revolts, Protests, Demonstrations, and Rebellions in American History: An Encyclopedia. Edited by Steven L. Danver. 1: 27-52. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2010.

Reff, Daniel T. “The “Predicament of Culture” and Spanish Missionary Accounts of the Tepehuan and Pueblo Revolts.” Ethnohistory 42, no. 1 (Winter 1995): 63-90.

Sando, Joe. “The Pueblo Revolt of 1680.” Native Peoples (2002): 54-55.

Schwaller, John F. “A New Dawn for the Borderlands.” Latin American Research Review 32, no. 1 (1997): 160-170.

The Pueblo Revolt of 1696: and the Franciscan Missions in New Mexico: Letters of the Missionaries and Related Documents. Edited and translated by Manuel J. Espinosa. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1988.

Wilcox, Michael V. and Michael V. Wilcox. The Pueblo Revolt and the Mythology of Conquest: An indigenous Archaeology of Contact. Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press, 2009.

Footnotes

  1. Joe Sando, “The Pueblo Revolt of 1680,” Native Peoples (2002): 54.
  2. Henry Warner Bowden, “Spanish Missions, Cultural Conflict and the Pueblo Revolt of 1680,” Church History 44, no. 2 (Jun. 1975): 223.
  3. Daniel T. Reff, “The “Predicament of Culture” and Spanish Missionary Accounts of the Tepehuan and Pueblo Revolts,” Ethnohistory 42, no. 1 (Winter 1995): 66.
  4. John F.Schwaller, “A New Dawn for the Borderlands,” Latin American Research Review 32, no. 1 (1997): 170.
  5. The Pueblo Revolt of 1696: and the Franciscan Missions in New Mexico: Letters of the Missionaries and Related Documents, ed. and trans. Manuel J. Espinosa (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1988), 5.
  6. Ibid., 37.
  7. “Pueblo Revolt (1680),” Revolts, Protests, Demonstrations, and Rebellions in American History: An Encyclopedia, ed. Steven L. Danver, (Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2010), 1: 39.
  8. The Pueblo Revolt of 1696, 63.
  9. Schwaller, “A New Dawn for the Borderlands”, 170.
  10. Fnklin Folsom, Indian Uprising on the Rio Grande: The Pueblo Revolt of 1680 (Albuquerque, New Mexico: University of New Mexico Press, 1973), 46.
  11. Charles W. Hackett, “The Revolt of the Pueblo Indians of New Mexico in 1680,” The Quarterly of the Texas State Historical Association 15, no. 2 (October 1911): 98.
  12. Michael V. Wilcox and Michael V. Wilcox, The Pueblo Revolt and the Mythology of Conquest: An indigenous Archaeology of Contact (Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press, 2009), 114.
  13. Sando, “The Pueblo Revolt of 1680,” 54.
  14. Sando, 54.
  15. Ibid., 55.
  16. Folsom, Indian Uprising on the Rio Grande, 50.
  17. Andrew L. Knaut, The Pueblo Revolt of 1680: Conquest and Resistance in Seventeenth-Century New Mexico (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 2015), 154.
  18. Wilcox and Wilcox, The Pueblo Revolt and the Mythology of Conquest, 144.
  19. Ibid., 145.
  20. Ibid.
  21. “Pueblo Revolt (1680),” 43.
  22. Joseph R. Aguilar, “Researching the Pueblo Revolt of 1680,” Expedition 55, no.3 (2013): 34.
  23. Alfonso Ortiz, “Popay’s Leadership: A Pueblo Perspective on the 1680 Revolt,” in Telling New Mexico: A New History, ed. Martha Weigle (Santa Fe, NM: Museum of New Mexico Press, 2009), 112.
  24. Ibid.
  25. Ibid.
  26. Sando, 55.
  27. “Pueblo Revolt (1680),” 34.
  28. Pedro Ponce, “Trouble for the Spanish: The Pueblo Revolt of 1680,” Humanities 23, no. 6 (November/December 2002): 23.
  29. Ibid., 21.
  30. Bowden, “Spanish Missions, Cultural Conflict and the Pueblo Revolt,” 227.
  31. “Pueblo Revolt (1680),” 34.
  32. Matthew Liebmann, “The Innovative Materiality of Revitalization Movements: Lessons from the Pueblo Revolt of 1680,” American Anthropologist 110, no. 3 (August 2008): 362.
  33. “Pueblo Revolt (1680),” 34.
  34. Matthew Liebmann, T. J. Ferguson and Robert W. Preucel, “Pueblo Settlement, Architecture, and Social Change in the Pueblo Revolt Era, A.D. 1680-1696,” Journal of Field Archaeology 30, no. 1 (2005): 49.
  35. “Pueblo Revolt (1680),” 34.
  36. Knaut, The Pueblo Revolt of 1680, 176.
  37. Wilcox and Wilcox, 154.
  38. Ponce, “Trouble for the Spanish,” 24.
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