Po'pay's Rebellion, also known as the Pueblo Revolt of 1680

Indian Country Today

Indian Country Today Newscast on Monday, August 10 with guest Matthew Martinez, along with ICT national correspondent Dalton Walker

Today is the 340th anniversary of Po'pay's Rebellion, also known as the Pueblo Rebellion of 1680. On August 10, 1680 there was a successful Indigenous uprising in the southwest where agricultural practices played a role in the survival of the people. Ohkay Owingeh leader Po'pay, which translates to pumpkin, was from the summer clan. He coordinated the reclaiming of the land with many pueblos and tribes. Together they effectively ended Spanish rule in New Mexico for the next 12 years. Our guest today is Matthew Martinez from Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo and he is the Deputy Director for the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture. He shares more details about the revolt, Po'pay and the role two young boys played in organizing the rebellion. 

Also on the program is our national correspondent Dalton Walker with updates on the primary elections in Hawaii. 

Here are a few of their comments:

Matthew Martinez:

"Thinking back in history and this particular time and the 1600s, we really need to understand a larger context of what pueblo life was like pre-contact and there was really a sense of life living free of geographic boundaries, trade and travel from not only Southwestern people through central and South America but traffic came up both ways, so to speak. And once Spanish of European travelers came to the Southwest, a lot of this way of life was completely halted and there are many events leading up to what we consider the successful revolt of 1680."


"A lot of tragic events leading up to the removal of the foot in Acoma but we really have to be mindful of what was happening in Spanish history and Spanish culture. The King of Spain was dictated by the Catholic church to really convert and proselytize and rid anything considered non-Christian from their own perspective. So ceremonial chambers, a lot of religious artifacts and objects were completely abolished, in the name of Christ, because it was a good thing. They were given these rights by what is known as the papel bull, really dictating that it was in God's best interest to convert heathens and savages and these words were pretty much doctorate of law at that time."

"They came in different waves, for the most part, the understanding is that pueblos are very curious of these newcomers. There were strange sounds, strange animals, you know, the first time they've seen cattle, you know, such as goat, oxen, horses. So the new sounds and new smells coming in really struck a curiosity cord but from a lot of our old stories and traditions, they also saw families. They saw women, they saw children and there was a sense of compassion also wanting to house people and feed them during that particular time. So it was really a mixture of feelings in many ways on that first encounter."

"So when Onate came in and 1598 he settled in a place called Ohkay Owingeh...He was quick to really develop a strong system of slave labor of taxation to really support the King of Spain and these larger institutions. So both his generation and his parents and grandparents were born into the system of slavery where they were, they were no longer able to carry out traditional practices, agricultural practices, songs, et cetera. So it took a lot of soul searching to really get to this point of planning a revolt. And in my mind, the determining factor was in 1675, when governor Trevino rounded up 47 men and flogged them publicly whipping them and lashing them at the Santa Fe Plaza...they were seen as sourcers, devil worshiping and heathens."

"That was really the critical moment that they had to really do something to organize against the Spanish empire. It's also known in the 1670s there was severe drought. So it wasn't only affecting pueblo people or Indigenous populations but Spanish families were also suffering because, the crops were no longer growing, there was no longer the production of food to sustain these families and institutions. So something had to give and it essentially was a call for human survival and the bigger picture. And we believe from a puelo perspective, if there's no songs or ceremonies and traditions, then there's no rain, there's no clouds, there's no moisture in this desert. So it had a ripple effect and thinking about these relationships, it was a way to save people in a way to save humanity."


"So the story goes is that Po'pay retreated up in Taos and Taos is recognized as one of the center points for cultivating and really organizing the revolts. So it was a safe place for Po'pay as a religious person to organize and send out the messages from there that this would be unfolding in the coming weeks and key to that were two runners, two boys, who were sent with a knotted cord made of Yucca strands delivered to each of the surrounding villages. And the story is that each day leading up to the revolt, one of those knots would be on tide and talking to the leaders, these boys were around the age of 14 and 15 years old. And it's pretty remarkable the culture of running that existed at that time and the distance that people and youth were able to travel for miles and miles, [Hundreds of miles]."

"It's pretty amazing. And so they were found out, two days before the revolt was to take place. So things surged rapidly from there. And so we consider the two boys heroes in our pueblo traditions and they were really the first two casualties of the Pueblo revolt of 1680."

"There's a lot of stories about his role and inherently from a public perspective, we really believe that he emerged at a time that was needed and to fulfill his position. And he kind of moved on and let future generations take over. And there was really obviously no formal documentation in the written word about his place and what he did and Cliff talks about that in his work he imagines what that would have looked like in the 1600s. And that, it's a very beautiful piece if you haven't seen it I encourage your viewers to really visit this Statutory Hall of Fame in D.C. and you just build up power of that person and the image."

"Po'pay translates to pumpkin. So we know from that name that he was a member of our summer clan. And again, the use of agricultural practices really becomes key to the subsistence and survival of people."

"I think a large part of that is looking beyond more than just survival, it's really just existing being and growing in this modern day and age and we can credit the revolt of 1680 as a way to think about how we have our languages and our traditions and our songs and ceremonies that are thriving and all of our communities. Despite our situation with COVID a lot of our public peace days and ceremonies have been on hold, at least in the public stance, but we're obviously very strong in continuing those traditions no matter what we're dealing with in modern times. And so you really can see this in today's schools where a lot of the language and this particular history of the revolt is taught as a curriculum in the school."

"It really is world history, and it's a really wonderful rich history that is full of contention that should be addressed in the larger national schools, so I would encourage you all to learn more about it."

Dalton Walker:

"Saturday's primary was a good day for Native Hawaiians. The state appears to be one step closer and to having a Native Hawaiian in Congress becoming only the second since statehood. The first was the late Senator Daniel Akaka who left office in 2013. The second congressional district, which covers suburban Honolulu and the state's more rural islands was left open by U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, who decided not to seek reelection in the heavily blue state. The favorite for the seat is democratic candidate Kai Kahele. Kahele accepted the democratic nomination on Sunday in a brief speech on Facebook. He received 65% of the primary vote on Saturday. And speaking of November, the neat thing about Hawaii Kahele is going up against a couple of other Native Hawaiians in the general election in Republican Joe Akana and Aloha Aina Party candidate Jonathan Hoomanawanui. The Aloha Aina Party is only a few months old and is the party on Native Hawaiian values, but both candidates have a huge task in catching Kahele in the general election."

"It did come up across pretty much from most candidates to an extent. The Aloha Aina Party, their leaders were a part of that movement. And I believe a lot of them are against the telescope."

"It appears Kahele is going to be the one who takes it. If numbers stay the same and interesting note on Saturday, this primary was done entirely by a mail which reports say likely boosted turnout about 380,000 ballots were counted compared to about 280,000 in 2018. And even less than that in 2016 report. The turnout was around 50%, which is strong in any election. So with Kahele on the democratic side, he has a pretty good chance."

"There were a couple people came out pretty excited talking about how well it worked out and they're excited to get going and see how November goes. Another interesting race I was keeping tabs on on Saturday, it was a democratic state house between two Native Hawaiians, and it's still too close to call. And it appears that a recount is happening early this week. Only 91 votes, separate them."

Also in the newscast, Deputy Managing Editor Jourdan Bennett-Begaye has the latest positive COVID-19 test numbers in Indian Country. The anchor and executive producer of the newscast is Patty Talahongva.

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This story has been corrected to spell the revolt's leader as Po'pay, as as of 10pm ET on Aug. 10. 

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