Chapter Eleven

1680 Pueblo Rebellion



Thanks again to all the sources available on the Internet

From the vantage point of the 21st Century C.E., it is easy for one to look back over the centuries and condemn the actions of others.  We see ourselves as so much more aware and sophisticated than our predecessors.  Our own 21st Century C.E. is perfect and without fault.  Therefore, we are not doomed to repeat these errors.  Or are we?  

It should be noted that cultures do clash, particularly those that are immensely different in character and substance.  The Spanish Nuevo Mundo was no exception.  

My Spanish forbearers, the Españoles, were not ignorant of the complexities of conquest, colonization, settlement, and governance.  As subjects of the Imperio Español or Spanish Empire and far away España, they had little power with which to control their environment, circumstances, or environment.  It was the Spanish Crown that held all power.  The ultimate impact of colonization and settlement on the Native-Americans of the North American Continent was never an issue to be discussed and planned for.


Picture the world of the Late-17th Century Nuevo Méjico.  The capital of Nueva España and its Viceroyalty or Virreinato at Méjico City was 1,600 miles away by mission re-supply wagon train via El Camino Real, and the trip was made only every 2 or 3 years.  The Virreinato and its Viceroy or Virrey with all decision-making authority resided there.  Nuevo Méjico was but a distant province having little control or power with which to act without the expressed permission of the Virrey.  Its Gobernador was in the end, only a petty official who owed everything to the Virrey.  

The province had little or no manufacturing only an agricultural, mining, and livestock economy.  Medicine and its practice were rudimentary at best.  Education was limited, with few schools other than those provided by the Church.  There had been little progress in the region of Nuevo Méjico since its inception in 1599 C.E.  

Help from the Virreinato was slow, if it ever arrived at all.  Out of desperation the Españoles were forced to act boldly, in a heavy-handed fashion, and with utter disregard for the consequences of their actions.  At best, the merging of these two distinct cultures of Spanish and Native was difficult.  In the worst case, it proved to be disastrous.  

The Old World or Viejo Mundo European view of civilized behavior left little understanding for their New World or Nuevo Mundo Pueblo Indian charges.  It can be said that the Native-American view of community and tribal values were in direct opposition to those held by their new Spanish neighbors.  It was this gross misunderstanding of cultures and the inability to grasp the essential elements of human respect and dignity that led to the defeat of the Nuevo Méjico Españoles by the Pueblo Indians.  

It was also the failure of the Gobierno Español and the Franciscan padres to reach agreement on many issues relating to the Pueblos and how best to administer them, that exacerbated the situation.  The result of these clashes between church and state was the Pueblo Revolt of 1680 C.E. and the loss of Nuevo Méjico by the Españoles for twelve years.  

During the Spanish Period (1535 C.E.-1821 C.E.) of Nuevo Méjico's history, the Gobierno Español and the Catholic Church altered Indian life in many ways.  When the Españoles first arrived in Nuevo Méjico in 1599 C.E., to colonize the only domesticated animals maintained by the Pueblo Indians were dogs and turkeys.  These animals were hardly enough to sustain the large and growing Pueblo populations.  

By necessity, the Españoles in the beginning required the Indians to feed them from an already limited food supply.  This proved to be an oppressive burden during the dry growing seasons and a disaster overall.  In an effort to mitigate the situation the Españoles integrated the Pueblos into the Spanish economy, but this took time.  The Españoles provided the Indian tribes with tools, crops, and Viejo Mundo livestock such as sheep hoping to expand foods supplies.  Over time, sheep began to be traded to the Indians.  The wool from these Spanish sheep soon replaced the cotton plant as the material used in Indian blankets.

Immediately, the Españoles imposed two systems.  Implementing the Encomienda and Repartimiento systems forced Indians to pay taxes with food, blankets, and labor.  Repartimiento was a detriment to the Indians because it took them away from their own fields to plant and harvest Spanish fields.  

The first system was the Encomienda, a form of taxation that required the Indians to pay using corn and blankets.  Thus, the encomienda did not require a tax in the form of labor.  The second system was the Repartimiento which required the Indians to pay taxes using their labor for tilling fields and tending livestock instead of corn and blankets.  

In the context of Europeanization of the Native-Americans, one must remember that slavery was commonplace and conscripted labor was a fact of life in the Viejo Mundo.  European lords regularly used their vassals to work their lands and tend their animals.  This was not some oddity with its beginning in the Nuevo Mundo.  It was in fact a carry-over from the Viejo Mundo.  

The Spanish settlers or Pobladores used their wards much like their European forefathers used surfs.  They incorporated Indian labor as an enforced labor system or tool for accomplishing this goal.  What the Españoles failed to grasp was the fact that the Indians were already working hard to provide for themselves food and shelter.  To worsen the situation, Spanish villages or villas and farms were constructed on prime land and near important water sources.  As a result, Indians lost prime farm and grazing lands at the same time they were taxed and forced to work the lands for the Españoles.  

As the complexity of community interaction increased and misunderstandings arose between the parties, the issue of Spanish dominance began to be questioned by the Pueblos.  These challenges brought about the raiding of Indian camps for the return of livestock and Indian men, women, and children were forced into Spanish service as servants in their homes.  

It must be stated here without equivocation that these actions did result in the loss of Indian lands, family disruptions, and the loss of lives.  Under no circumstances was this acceptable.  However, given the technology of the time, a general lack of needed resources, and the inability to plan for contingencies a clash of these two cultures was inevitable.  

On must also ask the question, what happened when the Native-Americans gained as much knowledge about agriculture, livestock, and mining as the Españoles?  Did they not see themselves as equal with the Españoles?  And what of the knowledge provided the Native-Americans by the mission system?  

By 1680 C.E., over eighty missions had been built by the Catholic Franciscans in Nuevo Méjico to bring the Christian God to the Native-Americans.  The Church by necessity integrated the Pueblo Indians into the mission labor force and also into Spanish Colonial society.  The Church believed the Indians needed to rechannel their energies towards utilitarian tasks which were more useful and thereby aid the Spanish laity and clergy.  

The padres placed men into basic work performance categories.  This was based upon their ability to learn tasks, speak Spanish, and abide by Mission rules.  Clearly, a new social hierarchy developed with skilled Native-American craftsman at the top and general laborers at the bottom.  These skilled craftsmen were masons, blacksmiths, carpenters, tanners, saddle makers.  There were also alcaldes or mission officials and work supervisors.  The semi-skilled craftsman did such jobs as tallow workers, butchers, hide cleaners, and later cowboys or vaqueros.  These were horse-mounted livestock herders of a tradition that originated on the Iberian Peninsula.  Native-America horticulturists included crop, garden, vineyard planters, pruners, and managers.  The general laborers included field hands, adobe brick makers, roofing, tile and brick production workers, the clearing fields, field plowing, and crop harvesting.  

Native-American females held jobs similar to many of their former native jobs such as the preparation of food and the raising children.  The padres placed all unmarried women in separate living quarters or monjeríos beginning around age ten.  These were dormitories which insured abstinence before marriage and to assimilate young girls and women into Spanish culture.  Once married, the women lived with their husband in family living quarters.  Women’s jobs and responsibilities included the grinding of corn, hauling drinking water in from the outdoors, caring for the sick, washing of clothing, preparing meals, weaving cloth, supervising and raising of children, the gathering firewood, and assisting with grain threshing.  

Given this training and experience, some mission Indians over time became disenchanted with the mission system and its rules.  As they ran away and returned to the Pueblos, they exchanged their knowledge for protection.  This produced in the Pueblos a sense of independence and a lessening of reliance on the Españoles.  Given the rigidity of the Spanish caste system, the Pueblos became disenchanted with the social order and dominance by the Españoles.  Yet, the Indians remained reluctant to overturn the Spanish economic system.  

Later, the Gobierno Español formed alliances with Indian tribes of the surrounding areas in an effort to expand influence and control.  They also provided them with tools, crops, and livestock.  Unfortunately, the Españoles also allowed them horses and arms.  These actions led to shifting tribal alliances and brought about new rivalries between the Native-Americans.  In some cases, the new materials made available to tribes gave them superior weaponry over their longtime enemies.  As they acquired horses, the Indians became more mobile and that mobility made them more dangerous.  Additionally, Spanish weapons and horses obtained by the marauding Indians were quickly used against peaceful Indian villages and later against Spanish Pobladores.  

In addition, Spanish intervention resulted in changing tribal customs and religious traditions.  Pueblo Indian culture fostered respect for the views and decisions of their religious leaders.  This cultural respect extended to the Catholic frays who were attempting to convert them to Christianity.  As the government fought openly with the friars, Indian respect for the missionaries deteriorated.  They began to question whether they could believe the friars, especially in view of the fact that the Gobierno Español didn't believe in them.  To make matters worse, while the two sides struggled for the right to rule the Indians, their wards were neglected, abused, and starved.  

Another cause central to the Pueblo revolt involved the troubles that the Indians endured prior to the revolt.  The Pueblo Indians blamed the Spanish missionaries due to their zealous demands regarding the Pueblo's religious culture.  The mission frays didn't allow them to perform their ceremonial rituals.  In addition, religious artifacts and kivas were destroyed by the Spanish soldados or soldiers.  The soldados acted on orders issued by the missionaries.  

In essence, the Indian Revolt in Nuevo Méjico was a direct result of years of Spanish colonial injustice.  By placement of the encomienda and repartimiento systems on the Indians and the demoralizing actions by the Gobierno Español fueled the fire of insurrection.  The actions that finally exacerbated the situation and led to the Pueblo revolt were Spanish demands regarding Pueblo religious culture.  

The frays had prohibited the Indians from performing their ceremonial dances and other rituals.  When caught following their own religious beliefs, the Indians were severely punished so tribal ceremonies were held in secrecy.  In an attempt to eliminate Indian religious practices, religious artifact and kivas used by the Pueblo Indians as ceremonial chambers and for the lodging of visitors were destroyed.  The reluctant Spanish soldados followed orders and carried out the destruction of important Indian religious symbols.  The Pueblo Indians attributed blame squarely on the Spanish missionaries and their zealousness.  

For the most part, the Pueblo people accepted their strange, new neighbors.  Many Indians had attempted to blend their customs with those of the Españoles and many completely gave up their old way of life in favor of Spanish culture and religion.  But over the years, resistance to Spanish attempts at religious and cultural conversion simmered until finally igniting into the Pueblo Indian Revolt of 1680.  Eventually, resentment over the imposition of Spanish culture and the repression of indigenous religions came crashing down in the Pueblo Revolt.  This was the only successful revolt ever waged in the Americas against the Spanish presence.  In the end, burdened by the heavy-handed Spanish rule, constant demands for tribute, oppressive labor, and attempts to annihilate the native religion, the Pueblo people's resentment of Spanish authority grew.  When the Indians could endure no more, the uprising followed.  It lasted for more than a decade and cost Nueva España her newest and most isolated colony.

On August 9th, Indians throughout the region overthrew the Gobierno Español, burned their churches, and killed their padres.  Led by Taos Pueblo, they revolted killing many of the thirty-five hundred Pobladores strung out from Santa Cruz de la Cañada (near Española) to Socorro and driving the rest south to El Paso del Norte (El Paso).  Fortunately, Padre Francisco de Ayeta was able to supply the Pobladores, soldados, and missionaries with what was needed to aid in their escape to El Paso.  Still, in the end, the Indians drove the Españoles back to toward Méjico City.  

Almost a century of bringing the teachings of Christianity to the pueblos, such as the Pecos Pueblo, and giving the Indians a new way of life, the Españoles were overcome.  Pecos' Nuestra Señora Church was destroyed in the great Pueblo Revolt of 1680.  This stunning defeat of the Españoles by the pueblos of Nuevo Méjico brought the work of the Church to an abrupt halt.  

The revolt had been led by Popé or Po'pay, an Indian medicine man, of the San Juan Pueblo.  Earlier he had been flogged by Spanish authorities.  Now filled with hate and rage, he vowed vengeance.  Escaping to the Taos Pueblo, he gained alliances with other Pueblo groups and the support of neighboring Apache tribes.  After almost one hundred years of Spanish dominance, the Pueblo communities were finally united.  Realizing that the Españoles were vulnerable the ambitious, bitter, Indian medicine man and his Indians in a fury lashed out destroying everything Spanish.  

The embittered medicine man could not forget that day in 1675 C.E., when he was arrested by the Spanish authorities for the sin of encouraging Indian rejection of Christian teachings.  Publicly flogged, he was then banished from the pueblo by order of Gobernador Francisco Treviño.  The cruel punishment only enraged the medicine man's feelings and hatred towards the Españoles.  Over the next several years he plotted and planned.  Five years after his beating, Po’pay led his successful revolt.  

In truth, prior to the flogging Po’pay had been a self-proclaimed enemy of the Gobierno Español.  Before the whipping, the medicine man had secretly planned a revolt to drive out the missionaries and the Españoles.  However, his plans could not be carried out. Therefore, he had for sometime been an insurrectionist and strong anti-Spanish advocate.  

It is known that he told his trusted medicine men and war captains that while praying in the kiva, the god Poheyemo appeared to him and appointed him his representative.  The god ordered him to kill all the Españoles, destroy every symbol of Christianity, and to return the Indians to their former way of life.  Although this movement was not popular among all the pueblos, few disagreed.  He then told his plans to his trusted followers and those who could keep his secrets.  

Po’pay would unite the warriors of the different pueblos with various Apache tribes and launch a surprise attack.  First, they would attack the Españoles at Santa Fé and the weakly guarded settlements and missions.  The Españoles everywhere would then be attacked.  Po’pay finally issued those orders to the pueblos under a cloud of secrecy.  The date for the attack was August 11th, but Gobernador Otermín learned of it. However, the Gobernador didn’t think the attack was as extensive as it proved to be and ignored the warning.  On August 10, 16 80, Po’pay’s plan became an ugly reality.  

The Gobierno Español was ill prepared to defend and overcome the Indians.  Short on provisions, a shipment of supplies that had been due to arrive hadn’t.  This lack of supplies contributed directly to the defeat of the Spanish settlement at Santa Fé.  

Po’pay had moved the attack one-day ahead of schedule and laid siege to Santa Fé on August 10th.  The vengeful Po’pay led all the Nuevo Méjico pueblos against the Españoles in an orgy of murder, rape, and plunder.  Across northern Nuevo Méjico, Spanish Pobladores were massacred and farms and ranches burned to the ground.  In a bid to eradicate every symbol of the new Catholic religion, twenty-eight padres and lay brothers were killed in a single day.  Churches, vestments, crosses, and holy images were desecrated in the rebellion.  

Meanwhile, several hundred Pueblo warriors lay siege to the provisional capital at Santa Fé.  After a period of nine days, the rebellious Indians agreed to spare the lives of Gobernador Antonio de Otermín and the besieged Pobladores once the Españoles agreed to leave Nuevo Méjico.  The following day, the Gobernador and more than one thousand Pobladores with their belongings began the long trek to El Paso. The once proud Españoles were beaten and driven from their remote province of northwestern Nueva España.  At Pecos, Fray Juan de la Pedrosa, the resident priest, two Españolas, and three defenseless children were murdered in the early hours of the Indian revolt.  

With the Españoles defeated, Po’pay ordered those Indians married in the church to abandon their spouses and marry others.  Religious ceremonies of the Catholic Church were banned and the Indians prohibited from verbally using the names of Christ, the Virgin Mary, and the Saints.  However, many Indian believers in the teachings of the Catholic Church, kept religious items from being destroyed by hiding them until the frays could return.  

Although the movement’s leaders wanted the Indians to return to their previous way of life, the majority of the Indians were unable to do so.  Spanish sheep had become important to Pueblo life because of its meat and wool.  And Spanish tools and weapons were superior to those previously used. The result was a native population divided.  

The Españoles faced with a stunning defeat and the loss of Nuevo Méjico, were left confused. Government officials in Méjico City, the capital of Nueva España, considered abandoning the province.  Padre Francisco de Ayeta, the supply officer for the missions, rode twelve hundred miles to convince the Viceroy or Virrey that Nuevo Méjico was important and insured its survival.

While the Españoles remained in Méjico, the Indian tribes returned to their old ways. The Utes, Navajos, and Apaches harassed the Pueblos.  The once fierce Apaches, who had learned corn planting and homebuilding from the Pueblos, found themselves under siege by invading Comanches and were beginning to be driven south.  And less than a year later, the brutal Po’pay's followers ousted the swaggering medicine man.  Having grown weary of his efforts to make himself a dictator, his former allies were happy to see him go.  

After the Pueblo Revolt on December 6, 1681 C.E., the ousted Gobernador Antonio de Otermín and seventy Spanish Soldados returned to Nuevo Méjico only to learn that all northern pueblos except Isleta were still in rebellion.  With the knowledge that the territory was lost the missionaries and the government now focused on working together to achieve the reconquest of Nuevo Méjico.  

Po’pay had died and the reconquest by Gobernador de Vargas’ soldados was inevitable.  Over the course of time the Pueblo’s disbanded and returned to their old ways.  This included each pueblo being autonomous from the others.  They were no longer united, still, over the next twelve years the Pueblo Indians would enjoy their hard fought freedom.  

In an effort to halt the Indian threat the Españoles established a central point for the military defense of Nuevo Méjico it centered on two garrisons.  One was built at El Paso in 1683 C.E.  

A year later, on November 28, 1684 C.E., the failed, beaten, and exiled Nuevo Méjico authorities lost a boundary dispute with the authorities of Nueva Vizcaya or northern Mexico.  In the settlement Nuevo Méjico lost all claims to the El Paso area.  

Following the Pueblo Revolt and the future reconquest the authority of the Catholic Church was reduced substantially.  The Gobierno Español held on to Nuevo Méjico principally as a defensive buffer against these enemies of the Spanish Crown or Corona Española because of the expanding influence of the French, English, and Russians in North America.  

What can and must be learned by the Pueblo Revolt is that many factors led to the tipping point.  Firstly, Nuevo Méjico had had over eighty years of social, political, and religious change.  The Españoles there suffered from neglect by the Virreinato at Méjico City.  It had stood as a long-ignored outpost of Nueva España some 1,600 miles away.  It was a place and people lost in time, a backwater.  The sheer weight of the loneliness and abandonment was taking its toll.  With few resources, little manufacturing beyond necessities, and only a bleak future to look forward to, the New Mexicans began that long spiral into a failed state.  

The Native-Americans had been educated and trained by the Church and its frays.  Their skill-sets and capabilities outstripped the understanding of the Europeans, who saw them only as part of a caste system.  The Native-Americans had grown beyond that image.  They were ready to be accepted as partners and not underlings.  

The Españoles of Nuevo Méjico saw the Pueblos as providing an unending stream of willing workers with which to support progress in Nuevo Méjico.  Both the Church and the government were trapped in a vision of the past, one which could not be replaced by the needs of the present.  The Native-Americans were necessary participants in everyday life, but not to be recognized less the order of things fall apart.  

Nature had her part in this play.  She brought droughts, epidemics, and famine.  She broke the back of the Spanish Empire in Nuevo Méjico.  The Españoles tried desperately to tame her with their water systems for agriculture and new farming methods.  Their Viejo Mundo plants and animals could feed many, but they too had to be fed.  When famine struck, it struck all.  Calamity after calamity beset them.  

The old, unending Native-American disputes continued despite Spanish interference.  The Utes, Navajos, and Apaches continued their harassment of the Pueblos.  The once fierce Apaches had learned corn planting and homebuilding from the Pueblos.  They found themselves under siege by invading Comanches.  The strain of it drove the Indigenous to despair and finally to action.  

In the end, the uprising cost everyone, everything.  The Españoles of Nuevo Méjico were humiliated by defeat and exile.  The Pueblos had won only a temporary reprieve from an impossible cast system, which would soon return with a vengeance.  The Church had been overcome and its god tested and found wanting.  Only time and fate would tell the next chapter for this Nuevo Méjico.

01/07/2016 11:13 AM