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The First American Revolution: The Pueblo Revolt

[node:summary]The First American Revolution: The Pueblo Revolt

“We don’t have a word for hero. But you can say a hero is someone who upholds your community’s values, and it takes courage because sometimes it’s a different thing, but you must have perseverance. In our way, it is important to us what our people think of you, so when you do something that is different and you do it because it was the right thing to do for your people, it takes great courage because people may misunderstand you.”

–  Wanda Dozier, Santa Clara tribal librarian and historian

The Pueblo Revolt is a complicated narrative. However this narrative, though it is complex, came up in a protest by a group of Native people on the Santa Fe Plaza on Friday, September 11. The peaceful demonstration was held by over a dozen people holding signs during the Entrada, the annual re-enactment of conquistador Don Diego de Vargas and his cuadrilla arriving on horseback to negotiate the resettlement of Santa Fe and, essentially, the surrender of the Pueblo people.

As the main event of the Fiesta de Santa Fe – and termed The Bloodless Reconquest of Santa Fe – one can see the potential for conflict in a small community over its history and who wrote it. The ‘bloodless reconquest’ took place 12 years after the Pueblo Revolt, in which 400 Spanish colonists, including 21 priests, were killed and Santa Fe was besieged by 2000 Pueblo warriors.

The Spanish colonists made a desperate break and joined up with a group of survivors from Isleta Pueblo, about 2000 of them fled to El Paso, including 500 Indian slaves, servants or allies, depending on your point of view. There was violence, executions, uprisings and retribution before 1680 and more after 1692.

In the end, the Revolt did not force the Spanish to leave what is now New Mexico, but it did force them to accept the Pueblo People as human beings with their own traditions. Thus these communities were forced to negotiate a day to day co-existence.

Running was the weapon that Pueblo leaders used in their planning of the Revolt, young men who carried the knotted cords that meant Revolution. The names of these leaders and heroes: Po’pay, Tagu, Antonio Malacate, Juan El Tano, Luis Conixu, Diego Xenome, Luis Tupatu, Francisco El Ollito, Nicolas de la Cruz Jonv, Antonio Bolsas, Cristobal Yope, Domingo Naranjo, Cajete, Alonzo Catiti, El Saca, and Domingo Romero.

The Descendants of the Pueblo Revolt Thrive Today

Three hundred years later the Pueblo communities to include the Tewa, Tiwa, Keres, Zuni and Hopi people, are still vibrant cultures that perform daily and seasonal ceremonies without interference. The only major issues are health-related, such as heart disease, obesity and diabetes, and each Pueblo conducts long-distance and community health runs to raise awareness of them.

Marla Redcorn-Miller, Museum of Indian Art and Culture (MIAC) Education Specialist, filled me in on the background on the Tribal Libraries Summer Reading Program, with the national theme of Community Heroes.

“One of the ways in which MIAC is engaging the grass-roots Native American communities is through the New Mexico Tribal Librarians and through creating true collaborative programs through a facilitated community-based process. Eighteen tribal librarians attended a workshop in partnership with the NM State Tribal Libraries Program.

The purpose of the workshop was to provide orientation for access and research of the library, archives and collections at MIAC; and to serve as a vehicle for developing collaborative community-based programming for the National Summer Library Program, “Every Hero Has a Story”. We all felt the need for more youth programming.”

W.Aguilar, J.Garcia and Laguna Pueblo students Courtesy Photo

MIAC executive director, Della Warrior emphasizes, “MIAC is creating a system through which the vast resources about Southwest indigenous people may be increasingly used by the tribes for their own community development projects in health, education, language, economic development.”

Two heroes in the Pueblo communities of the Southwest are at either end of history. Pope’ (or Po’pay) of Ohkay Owingeh (San Juan Pueblo) who led the 1680 Pueblo Revolt; and Esther Martinez (Po’e Tsa’wa), also from Ohkay Owingeh, whose efforts to keep her Tewa and other indigenous languages alive and healthy in the modern age were made permanent in a national native language immersion program.

In December 2006, the Esther Martinez Native American Languages Preservation Act was signed into law authorizing funding for programs for tribes to prevent the loss of heritage and culture, with three-year grants for educational Native American language nests, survival schools, and restoration programs.

Esther Martinez

This recognition came just months after she was killed in a car accident after returning from Washington D.C., where she received a National Heritage Fellowship. The fellowships, awarded by the National Endowment for the Arts, are the highest honor in folk and traditional arts. Martinez, “the San Juan Storyteller,” is known for her books: The San Juan Pueblo Tewa Dictionary (1983), The Naughty Little Rabbit and Old Man Coyote (1992) and My Life in San Juan Pueblo: Stories of Esther Martinez (2004).

A Conversation with Joseph Aguilar

San Idelfonso Pueblo member Joseph Aguilar, a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania and Clay Artist Jason Garcia were invited by MIAC to present art and history to the visiting Pueblo children. Garcia and Aguilar created a big map of all Pueblo communities along the Rio Grande Valley, detailing the “historic narrative of the Pueblo Revolt.”

Aguilar’s primary research focuses on the archaeology of the American Southwest, with a specific interest in Spanish-Pueblo relations during the late 17th century.

Aguilar: “The term hero tends to be used a lot in contemporary society and has different meanings to different groups of people. We wanted to reinforce to the children the contemporary and historic figures from their own tribal communities who might be considered heroes, and how their actions might be considered heroic. That heroes do not only exist in comic books, but come from their own families and communities.”

“The intent of creating an interactive map of the 17th century pueblo landscape was to illustrate the major events and actions of individuals in colonial New Mexico leading up to the Pueblo Revolt and Spanish Reconquest. There were a number of leaders from several different pueblo communities whose actions proved to be integral to the success of the revolt. However, many of these individuals are lost in the larger narrative of the revolt, or their stories not readily accessible to children or their teachers. The mapping exercise attempted to make the histories of Pueblo peoples more presentable and accessible to a younger audience.”

“More importantly, Pueblo children were reminded of historic individuals from their own communities whose roles during the tumultuous early colonial period in New Mexico were important in the defense of Pueblo lifeways. We hoped this representation of Pueblo leaders during this episode of southwestern history will help Pueblo children conceptualize heroes relative to their own individual communities and histories, and instill a sense of pride in their ancestors.

ICTMN: Why does a Native person get into archaeology as a career and can you tell us something of what you have experienced from the attitudes of both Natives and non-Natives?

Aguilar: “Contemporary native communities have come to recognize, and have begun to remedy, the historic legacy and consequences of the misguided practices of anthropologists in and among native communities in North America. As a subfield of anthropology, the practice of archaeology in the Pueblo Southwest has had lasting impacts that affect Pueblo communities to this day. Archaeology can be used by Pueblo communities to protect and preserve their unique cultural heritage, while making these studies more relevant and responsible to native peoples.”

“Archaeology is continually evolving from a purely academic pursuit to one in which multiple stakeholders wield their involvement within it. There is an increased involvement from a growing number of archaeologists (both native and non-native) whose approaches have brought more awareness to the political nature of archaeology. Within the discipline, “Indigenous Archaeology” (there is no one way to practice archaeology in and among native communities) has emerged as a response the colonial nature of archaeology. Indigenous Archaeology is attempting to move past the traditional imperialist goals of traditional American archaeology. Through the intersection of native knowledge, values, ethics and community oriented projects with archaeological theory and practice, a more inclusive and ethical archaeology is beginning to emerge.”

This story was originally published October 4, 2015.