When the Spanish arrived in the New Mexico territories, they sparked what would become more than a century of struggle and strife with the Native Americans. Their efforts to spread Catholicism to the New World and its indigenous people were met with resistance frustration – largely due to the fact that the Native religion was forbidden.
As missions were built throughout the territory, kivas and kachinas became illegal. Dances, which the Natives believed would bring about good harvests in the fall, were banned. Those that opposed the requirements of the Spanish were often met with harsh punishment – including death.
Decades of this lifestyle led many Puebloans to fight back. One in particular, an Okay Owingeh tribal leader named Popé, sought to unify the various pueblos in a calculated and timed revolt. After being released from imprisonment in the 1670’s, Popé took up residence in the Taos Pueblo. There, he orchestrated what would become the most successful assault on their oppressors – the Pueblo Revolt of 1680.
August 10th, 1680 saw hundreds of indigenous people in the New Mexico territory throw off the shackles of their oppressors, burning Spanish buildings to the ground and forcing them to flee south to El Paso. Over the next decade, many of the tribal leaders were able to re-establish their ways of life in their native land but, it wouldn’t last long.
In the 1690’s, the Spanish returned, this time under the leadership of Governor Don Diego de Vargas. He led what some called a “bloodless reconquest”, but many reports say it was anything but.
Ultimately, the Spanish and Native people adopted a compromised co-existence, one that would take centuries to overcome.