Pueblo Revolt

Pueblo Revolt

The Pueblo Revolt of 1680 included most of the northern Pueblos and was carefully organized by Popé from Ohkay Owingeh. It succeeded in overthrowing Spanish rule in New Mexico for 12 years. A traditionally peaceful people, the Pueblos had endured much after New Mexico’s colonization in 1598. Catholicism was forced on them by missionaries who burned their kivas, masks, and other sacred objects. They were tried in Spanish courts and received severe punishments—hanging, whipping, dismemberment of hands or feet, or condemnation to slavery.

Little is known of Popé’s life before 1675. In that year he was imprisoned by Spanish authorities on suspicion of witchcraft and of killing several missionaries. Since the expedition led by Francisco Vázquez de Coronado that had begun Spanish colonization of the Southwest in 1540, hundreds of Pueblo individuals had been impressed into virtual slavery or, if they dared open resistance, executed. After his release from prison, Popé hid in Taos Pueblo to plan and organize what came to be known as the Pueblo Revolt. Popé believed that he was commanded by tribal ancestral spirits to restore traditional native customs, and other villages enthusiastically responded to news of the planned uprising.

On August 10, 1680, Popé led a united attack of almost all the Pueblo Indian tribes on the Spanish capital of Santa Fe, killing nearly 500. After 10 days nearly 1,000 besieged residents abandoned the city and fled to El Paso. Popé immediately set about erasing all vestiges of Spanish culture and the Christian religion. Restoring ancestral ways, he traveled from one pueblo to another in ceremonial dress. For a time he was accorded great honour, but success made him despotic, and, after a few years, drought, enemy tribe forays, and internal dissension combined to depose him. He was, however, reelected Pueblo leader in 1688, shortly before his death. Although Spanish rule was reestablished in 1692, the Spanish domination was never as strong as before the time of Popé.