Anniversary of the 1680 Pueblo Revolt

The Revolt Runners sculpture at Santa Fe’s Inn of Loretto.

Today marks the 342nd anniversary of the 1680 Pueblo Revolt. That date is the most historically significant event in New Mexico’s history. The Pueblo Revolt was the only time in North American history where the oppressed defeated their oppressors. The art featured above is entitled, The Revolt Runners, the young men who carried a piece of rope featuring the five knots that led to the historic start of the revolt on August 10, 1680. The design at the top of each piece, along with the different faces, indicates the different Indigenous groups joining forces to defeat the Spanish colonists.

Po’Pay: A Fearless Leader

A sculpture of Po’pay featuring the five rope knots on top of his head.

Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo, formerly known as San Juan Pueblo, was at the epicenter of events during the latter part of the 16th century. The Spanish explorer Gaspar de Castaño was the first European to make contact with the Pueblo in 1591. A huge cross erected by Castaño at the pueblo marked the beginning of the evangelization of the Native People. When Juan de Oñate arrived in 1598 he christened the pueblo San Juan de los Cabelleros. It was also at San Juan Pueblo that the medicine man Po’pay began the 1680 Pueblo Revolt that forced the Spanish colonists out of New Mexico for twelve years.

Religious Persecution Led to the Revolt

The Spaniards forced the Pueblo Indians to work as slaves and frequently burned their sacred objects and their underground ceremonial chambers known as kivas in order to discourage their traditional ceremonial dances. Forty-seven religious Pueblo leaders falsely accused of witchcraft received a flogging in Santa Fe in 1676. One of the men persecuted was Po’pay. After the Pueblo Revolt members of San Ildefonso fled for their safety in the mountains atop the Black Mesa until 1694. Tesuque Pueblo made distinguished contributions during the Pueblo Revolt. Two of its men, Nicolas Catua and Pedro Omtua, were sent as runners to the other Pueblos to alert the chiefs of plans for the uprising. It was at Tesuque Pueblo that the first blood of the revolt was shed on August 10, 1680, with the killing of a Spaniard, Cristobal de Herrera.

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