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Cristobal: Amid celebration, remember pueblo survival

"Ammu Hanu,” she starts by speaking, with sorrow as old as war, “warriors, women and children were massacred and died here.”

Eighty-year-old Lolita Pena Christobal of Santa Ana Pueblo (Tamaya) is speaking of atrocities committed by the conquistador, Francisco Vasquez de Coronado in 1540.

Lolita’s knowledge comes from oral history passed down from her father, Manuel Pena, who served as cacique in 1920. The term cacique is Spanish, meaning Indian chief in the West Indies and Latin America.

Lolita is my mother. She holds a highly respected position in today’s male dominated pueblo society.

Lolita continues, “Many of our men uphold the Spanish mindset, especially when it comes to having control or power over women.

“Ideally, there was no selfishness, only generosity. It wasn’t about how much I could get for myself, rather, it was about how much I can give to the people.”

Because of her remarkable accomplishments, the Tamaya people have remained strong in identity and spiritual beliefs. Most importantly, the Keres native language continues to be spoken.

Our ancestors made sacrifices so we might retain what little land we now hold.

Today, the 19 indigenous pueblos remain intact to tell their view of this horrific destruction of life. It must be acknowledged, our voices must be heard.

Coronado, in 1540, established his army headquarters at the ancient pueblo of “Ghufoor.” It was there that Coronado launched his first winter attacks against the Tiwa, along the Rio Grande River to begin the Tiquex War. The bloody victory at Arenal took place in December of 1540.

Pueblo Indians, who thought they had been promised amnesty for surrendering, were tied to stakes and burned alive. Between 80 and 200 Pueblo Indians died.

Spanish historical accounts also reveal in the bitter winter of 1540, an epic battle at the village of “Moho,” near present-day Albuquerque, at which the pueblo people refused to surrender to the Spaniards. Coronado himself led the attack. The pueblo people attempted a last desperate escape at night. The Spaniards slaughtered them all. A tragic pattern of deceit had been set in motion along the Rio Grande River.

Coronado’s search for the fabled seven cities of Cibola in 1540 was based upon greed for gold, bloodshed and genocide.

We pray for justice and that these acts of terrorism will remind the world of such violence in New Mexico’s colonial history.

The ancient Tiwa Pueblo people – originally of Ghufoor – are evidenced today by a mound on Bernalillo’s west side of the Rio Grande River.

The Spanish altered its name to Coofor (also Alcanfor), and later to Santiago. Currently, a housing development sits on the site. The U.S. Department of the Interior holds the small site in trust for Sandia Pueblo, whose people consider Santiago to be an ancestral home.

Numerous settlements recount our people’s existence and migration. Paaku was on the eastern slopes of the Sandia Mountains, later known as the Tijeras and San Antonio sites. Santa Ana Pueblo migrated from Paaku to lands adjacent to the Rio Grande River, settling in six or more villages from Albuquerque to (Angostura) Algodones. One such village, “Buraikana,” the butterfly, was north of Bernalillo on the west bank of the Rio Grande River, also considered an ancestral home of the Hanu (the people) of Santa Ana Pueblo.

According to oral history, the Hopi were living in a cohesive environment with the Tiwa and (Tamaya) Santa Ana people. Another village, Kwiiste Haa Tamaya, was on the left bank of the Jemez River, near present-day Zia Pueblo.

Today, we continue to live at Tamaya just west of the Rio Grande River. This site was occupied in 1690 with a population of 90 survivors. A testament to our survival is evident today by an official scenic historical marker at the entrance to Tamaya, which documents only a footnote of history – not worthy of our survival.

Spanish archives indicate there were 99 Indian pueblos in New Mexico. Eighty of the pueblos were destroyed and never again repopulated. There was a 90 percent decrease in population within a period of only 20 years. What a travesty.

The papal bull of Pope Alexander VI, Inter cetera, granted the Indies to the kings of Castille as a form of colonial land policy of Mercedes whereby Spain took possession of indigenous lands. In English, it is called the Spanish Land Grants. Whose land was it that Spain was granting so freely to Spanish settlers? It was Indian land; stolen indigenous land.

In 1709, the Pueblo of Santa Ana (Tamaya) purchased 5,000 acres along the Rio Grande River to increase its agricultural production and land base. The pueblo’s 15,000 acre Spanish land grant and additional land purchases brought the reservation to its present size of about 79,000 acres, both east and west of the Rio Grande River. The 2000 census totals 700 Santa Ana members.

Our ancestors made sacrifices so we might retain what little land we now hold. Now, it is our responsibility to carry on that struggle to protect our sacred lands from encroachment of the outside world.

Is it possible to be proud of our oral histories today? Can we honor our ancestors’ reverence for the sacred land and people? Oral history has its merit among indigenous peoples since time immemorial, long before any Spanish chronicler’s written accounts.

We shall endure as Hanu (the people) as the Creator intended for us in this contemporary time. The Santa Ana (Keresan) speaking people include Zia, Cochiti, San Felipe, Kewa (formerly Santo Domingo), Acoma and Laguna pueblos.

On this 400th birthday of Santa Fe, we honor our elders; we are deeply indebted for much that is known today, since the Hanu accounts for the oral history of the people, which had come to them in oral form.

As pueblo people, we must secure our inherent rights to speak the truth without fear of intimidation and retaliation for speaking out. It is time to speak the truth and decolonize our pueblo minds.

Manuel R. Cristobal is a councilman for the Pueblo of Santa Ana (Tamaya). The opinions expressed in this commentary do not represent the Santa Ana Tribal Council or the All-Indian Pueblo Council.