On This Day In History: August 10, 1680 - Pope/The Pueblo Rebellion
- August 10, 1680: The Pueblo Rebellion takes place in New Mexico under the
leadership of a Tewa named Popé. Popé has arranged for an attack on as many
of the Spanish missions as possible to all take place on the same day. Some
sources say this happens on August 11th.
From Phil Konstantin's website, www.americanindian.net
From Glenn Welker's website at http://www.indians.org/welker/pope.htm
Pope, c.1630-c.1690, a celebrated medicine man of the Tewa PUEBLO Indians at
San Juan, N. Mex., instigated a successful rebellion against the Spaniards
in 1680. Preaching resistance to the Spanish and restoration of the
traditional Pueblo culture and religion, Pope led his people in an attempt
to obliterate all Spanish influence. On Aug. 10, 1680, the Indians under his
leadership killed about 400 missionaries and colonists and drove the other
Spaniards south to El Paso, Tex. Pope and his followers then proceeded to
destroy Christian churches and other evidences of the Spanish presence in
Pueblo territory. Thereafter, as the head of several Tewa villages, Pope
exerted what many considered increasingly harsh rule. Dissension arose,
weakening Pueblo unity, and in 1692, two years after Pope's death, the
Spaniards regained control.
Life for the Pueblo Indians during the 1600s was hard. The Spaniards had
settled on their lands and Spanish towns and ranches were built throughout
the Rio Grande Valley. Soldiers and priests were living in the Pueblo
villages. The Spanish priest outlawed traditional Pueblo ceremonies and
forced the Indians to worship the Spanish god. If any Indian refused, he
was beaten, jailed, or killed. The Pueblos knew that if they tried to fight
against Spaniards at the mission, soldiers from Santa Fe might come and
destroy their village.
Strange diseases brought by the settlers from Europe also swept through the
Pueblo towns. The illnesses killed hundreds of people and left many
villages empty. Before Onate and his colonists had come, the Pueblos had
always prepared for dry times by storing extra food for their villages.
When the Spaniards conquered the Pueblos, they forced them to surrender the
stored good as taxes. When dry times came, there was no food and hundreds
of Pueblos died from starvation. The people began to abandon their villages
to get away from diseases, hunger, and the Spaniards. Some joined their
Navajo friends living near Dinétah. Others joined the Zunis or the Hopis
who lived far to the west. Some Pueblos moved onto the plains to escape the
Spaniards. When Onate first entered New Mexico in 1598, there were over one
hundred Pueblo Indian villages in the Rio Grande valley. By 1680, only
forty-three pueblo villages were occupied.
By 1680, many Pueblo chiefs had decided something had to be done about the
Spaniards. The Pueblo way of life was ending. A San Juan Pueblo leader
named Pope held a secret meeting with other pueblo leaders. He knew that if
a single Pueblo village fought against the Spaniards, the army could easily
destroy that pueblo. His plan was to have all the pueblo villages attack
the Spaniards. The Spaniards could not fight all the pueblos at one time.
Pope outlined his plans to the chiefs and chose a day in August of 1680 for
the rebellion. On that day, Pueblo warriors from all villages would storm
into the churches and kill all the priests and soldiers. Not one Spaniards
should escape to warn the governor and soldiers in Santa Fe. When the
priest and soldiers were dead, the warriors would join together to form a
huge Pueblo army. Next, they would march into Santa Fe and drive the
Spaniards out of New Mexico.
How would the villages know when to attack? Pope told the leaders that each
day he would send messengers to each village chief. Each messenger would
carry a knotted rope. The numbers of knots on the rope told how many days
were left. Each day the village chief received the rope, he would untie one
knot. If seven knots were left, that means there would be seven days left.
When all the knots had been untied, the Pueblos would attack. The chiefs
agreed with Pope's plan and returned home to their villages to get ready.
Pope left for the northern pueblo of Taos where he could direct the
rebellion in secret.
At first, Pope's plan went well. Then, four days before the rebellion, he
discovered that someone had informed the Spaniards about it. He knew that
the pueblos had to strike quickly before the soldiers could attack them. He
immediately sent out messengers to all the pueblos. He told them to attack
On October 9, 1680, the Pueblos rebelled. Pueblo warriors killed every
priest and soldier they could find and then joined together in a huge army
and marched towards Santa Fe. The surviving colonists retreated into Santa
Fe. The governor, Antonio de Otermin, knew he could not protect the
settlers. The Pueblo army surrounded Santa Fe and cut off all supplies to
the town. After a week, Otermin knew his people could not survive much
He ordered his soldiers and colonists to abandon Santa Fe. The governor and
nearly two thousand Spaniards fled to friendly Isleta Pueblo for protection.
Then they marched down the Rio Grande Valley towards Mexico. At last they
reached the Spanish settlement at El Paso in what is now known as Texas.
The Spaniards had escaped, but they lost the war. Over three hundred
colonists had been killed. They had lost their homes, ranches, missions and
most of their belongings. Not one Spaniard was left in New Mexico. Pope's
rebellion had worked. The Pueblos celebrated and tore down Spanish
buildings and burned the churches. They destroyed much of Santa Fe. The
Pueblo Indians were sure the Spaniards would never come back.
Ten years passed. The Pueblo warriors returned to their villages and
returned to their traditional way of life. Medicine men resumed their
traditional ceremonies without fear. Pueblo villages began trading freely
with each other and with the Navajos.
The Pueblos had many problems. Navajos raided Pueblo villages as they had
done before. This time the Spaniards were not there to protect them.
Mounted Navajo attacks increased. Apache and Ute horsemen raided the
pueblos too. Some Pueblo villages even fought with each other. During this
time, the Spaniards made three unsuccessful attempts at reconquesting the
Rio Grande Valley. Many Pueblo villages were so busy fighting with each
among themselves and with their traditional enemies that they hardly noticed
any Spanish soldiers in their area.
Spanish leaders in Mexico had not forgotten the Pueblos or New Mexico. Don
Diego de Vargas was selected as the new governor o New Mexico. He was to go
to El Paso and form an army to reconquer New Mexico for Spain.
Vargas arrived in El Paso in 1691. He immediately made plans to invade the
Rio Grande Valley. He learned from spies that Pope's army had fallen apart.
He also knew that the Pueblos were fighting with their enemies and among
themselves. Vargas spent a year in El Paso getting his army ready for the
reconquest of New Mexico.
In 1692, Vargas and his men marched out of El Paso and entered New Mexico.
They caught one of the Pueblo villages by surprise. Soon Governor Vargas'
men had taken Santa Fe. One by one the Pueblo villages were defeated. Pope
had died before the reconquest. However, soldiers caught and killed other
leaders of the Pueblo Rebellion. Most people surrender, but many ran away.
After four years of war, Vargas and his men had reconquered all of the
Pueblos. The Spaniards were back to stay in New Mexico.