August 21 – The First American Revolution

Posted on August 21, 2018

Today is the anniversary of what is known as the Pueblo Revolt.

In the long, sad tale of the European-peoples' land-grab in the Americas, and the genocide of the Native peoples - that is, the enormous loss of native peoples, through deliberate killing and disease and a bunch of other factors - I've often heard of fierce warriors and Native battle victories. From the Battle of the Little Bighorn - in which Lakota, Cheyenne, and Arapaho were victorious over Custer and his regiment - to the Battle of Wabash - the biggest victory of Native Americans over the U.S., won by Iroquois and other members of the Western Confederacy - from Geronimo to Sitting Bull to Crazy Horse, there were a lot of battle victories and heroes among all the various peoples we often call "American Indians." 

I always thought that the Pueblo "Indians," who lived in what is now the Southwest of the U.S., were super peaceful. As a matter of fact, one group of Pueblo people, the Hopi, have a name that actually means "the peaceful people"!  

But early on in the European takeover of the continent, the Puebloan peoples banded together and drove out the land-grabbers. 

Way-way-way back, in the late 1500s, a Spanish leader named Juan de Oñate led a group of soldiers, priests, and colonists into a valley of what is now New Mexico. They not only killed a lot of the Puebloans living there, they enslaved the rest - and, to make sure that the Native people wouldn't fight back, the Spaniards cut the right foot off of all the Pueblo men!

The Acoma people took action against the glorification
and the heroic pose of the Spanish "conquistador"
Juan de Oñate in this statue at the Oñate Monument
Visitor's Center.

They used an electric saw to cut the right foot off of the

But...the Visitor's Center people just had a
new foot sculpted and attached to the statue.

In addition to oppressing and enslaving and killing and maiming the Puebloan peoples, the Spaniards tried to destroy their cultures. For the most part, the Spanish priests didn't just teach the Native peoples about the Catholic (Christian) religion - they also specifically taught against the Pueblo religions. The Spaniards outlawed Kachina dances, seized and burned prayer sticks and other religious items, and executed medicine men. 

All of this cruelty instilled a lot of fear of the Spaniards among the Puebloan peoples. The more warlike Apaches attacked both Spaniards and Puebloans, and they were easily able to steal food and goods from the mistreated slaves.

And the weather didn't help. There were droughts. Hunger became a huge problem.

This is the backdrop for the Pueblo Revolt. A San Juan Puebloan man named Popé (or Po'pay) spent five years traveling among the 46 villages of the various Puebloan peoples. Each of the 46 groups had their own language and leaders and customs, so it was a challenge to communicate with them - but Popé worked to get the various groups to agree to rise up against the Spaniards.

Taos Pueblo's Robert Mirabel portraying Popé

One of his selling points was that Popé was convinced that, once they drove the Spaniards away, the ancient Pueblo gods would reward them with rain, health, and prosperity.

Most of the Puebloan peoples agreed to help with the revolt, and it's possible that some Navajo and Apache people helped, too. Unfortunately, some Puebloans had assimilated with the Spanish culture, and in some cases even married Spaniards, and someone who was pro-Spain tipped off the Spanish forces. So a lot of the element of surprise was gone.

Still, Popé and the Native warriors attacked and inflicted heavy losses on the Spaniards. About 400 Spanish men, women, and children were killed. Two-thirds of the Spanish priests were killed. The rest of the Spaniards fled the region - and the Puebloans allowed them to escape with their lives.

The Pueblo forces won on this date in 1680!

Most of the churches that
were destroyed in the Pueblo
Revolt were soon rebuilt.

The Pecos church, above, was
rebuilt but is now in ruins.
Popé ordered the crosses and Catholic churches to be destroyed. He ordered all the Pueblo people to cleanse themselves with rituals and to renounce baptisms and marriages that had happened within the Spanish churches. He even gave orders Spanish fruit trees and livestock to be destroyed, and for people to stop planting grains brought by the Spaniards (wheat and barley). He wanted everyone to go back to the old ways as if the Spaniards had never come at all.

Of course, it's impossible to fully go back, and the Puebloan peoples hadn't chosen Popé king, after all - and many didn't necessarily want to follow all of his orders. I didn't read whether or not the livestock and fruit trees were actually destroyed - I hope not, since so many people were hungry! 

And, unfortunately for the Pueblo peoples, the droughts and hunger continued.

Native peoples still have
to work hard to gain justice
in  the U.S.
By the time the Spaniard returned to the area, about 12 years later, there was little resistance to their rule.

Check out this video to learn more.

No comments:

Post a Comment