The History and Significance of the Pueblo Revolt of 1690

This month marks the 339th anniversary of the Pueblo Revolt of 1690 — an uprising of the Pueblo Indians against Spanish colonizers in present-day Santa Fe that marked a historic win for indigenous human rights and independence. Today, we recognize these indigenous ancestors as we share the history and outcome of this monumental point in history.

When the Spaniards arrived in present-day New Mexico in the 1500’s, the Pueblo people were subjected to successive waves of soldiers, missionaries and settlers who sought to destroy the pueblo way of life. In the years to follow, several violent confrontations severed the relationship between the Spaniards and the Pueblos, including the Tiguex War of 1540 and the Acoma Massacre of 1598.

The first permanent colonial settlement was established after the Acoma Massacre. Approximately 40,000 Pueblo Indians inhabiting the region were forced to assimilate, and those who did not oblige were often tried in Spanish courts and condemned to death, severe punishments, and slavery. They were also forced to provide tribute to colonists in the form of labor and restrictions to their fertile farmlands.

With colonization also came the establishment of theocracies by Franciscan priests in many of the Pueblo villages. During this time, more than 7,000 Pueblo Indians were baptized into Catholicism and their traditional Indian manifestations and customs were outlawed.

Unfortunately, drought swept the region in the late 1600’s, leading to increased frustration by Spanish settlers who raided the Pueblos’ food supplies and other resources to maintain order of their colony. Conflicts escalated, and the Spaniards arrested several dozen Pueblo medicine men, accusing them of practicing sorcery and sentencing them to death. Several prisoners were released once the Pueblo leaders heard this news and intervened, including Pope, a Tewa medicine man who helped shift the fate of the Pueblo peoples.  

On Aug. 10, 1680, Pope carried out his long-awaited plan to revolt against the Spaniards, with support from the Northern Pueblos, the Pecos Pueblos, and the Zuni and Hopi peoples who resided in nearby lands. Over the next few days, the Puebloans pillaged the Spanish settlements and removed 21 of the 33 Franciscan missionaries in New Mexico. By September, Spanish settlements ceased to exist in the state and the remaining Spaniards were escorted to El Paso.

From that point forward, the Puebloans in New Mexico self-governed their tribes and worked to re-establish some of their previous ancestral traditions. While drought continued to destroy Puebloan crops, they remained united in working together to prevent the return of the Spanish for the next two years. However, that period of independence, a defining moment of freedom and rebirth of their traditions, was short-lived, and the Spaniards eventually re-gained control of the area as part of a peaceful agreement in 1692. Although the influence of the Spanish can still be seen today, 19 pueblos are now federally recognized as sovereign nations.

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