Marking the first American revolution: the Pueblo Revolt of 1680

Pueblo people in New Mexico and Arizona celebrate the day their ancestors successfully drove out Spanish colonizers, allowing Pueblo cultures to survive and thrive

August 10th marked the 339th anniversary of the Pueblo Revolt. Pueblo communities in New Mexico and Arizona commemorate the day with various activities. 

The Tesuque Pueblo held an early morning run from the Pueblo to the plaza in Santa Fe.

“Well today we are celebrating the two runners Catua and Omptua, the two runners from Tesuque Pueblo,” said, Gil Vigil, chairman of the eight northern pueblo council. “The significant part if you will, (is) the preservation of traditional culture. If we didn’t revolt in 1680, we would not have the traditions and culture we have today. The songs, the dances we practice today. Living the life we were instructed to live, from the time we set foot upon this earth. So for us Pueblo people 1680 is a date that will live in infamy as they say in history. This event reminds us of who we are as Pueblo people. So for those of you not aware of our culture, the Pueblo Revolt was the first revolution on this continent for independence from a foreign nation. That is the purpose of our event today.”

One hundred miles to the south, in the Pueblo of Jemez, Cliff Fragua considered how the Pueblo Revolt impacts his work and his life. He has the distinction of creating an iconic sculpture of Po’pay. It’s in Statuary Hall at the U.S. Capitol representing the state of New Mexico. Fragua’s respect for the historical event is evident.

“I live it everyday, let’s put it that way, because I live here in Jemez Pueblo. It’s a small community but we still retain our language, our culture, and our traditions. I participate communally with the traditions when it comes to farming and ceremony and whatever traditions we follow. I think it is really important that we continue those. If the 1680 revolt had not occurred we wouldn’t be where we are at today and we wouldn’t have what we have today. And I think it is highly important that we think about that almost on a daily basis. we should be grateful and appreciative of such an occurrence to happen. Although it got to that point, it had to happen for our survival as Pueblo people.”

Santa Fe Mayor Alan Webber read a proclamation for the day naming it, Saturday August 10th, 2019 Pueblo of Tesuque 1680 Pueblo Revolt Commemoration Day.

”I think a day like today reminds us that we all live together in a very special place,” said Webber. “And we all really depend on each other. We have to live in harmony and respect and honor each other, and as we work together we will build a better future. We don’t turn our back on the past, we remember it. It is filled with pain. It’s filled with suffering but it’s also filled with resiliency and with the ability to get along and find our way forward in a way that is unlike any other part of this country. We really should be living together, we need each other We depend on each other and we need to work together and today is part of that.”

Governor of Tesuque Pueblo Milton Herrera echoed that sentiment.

“To me it is very important because of the two runners that sacrificed their lives to protect their people and to protect our way of life. Having a relationship with Santa Fe is also important because I think everyone needs to know that this is our home. And I hope that people do understand that this means a lot to us and also that they maybe need to teach the schools and the kids, that they understand where they live and that you know, this used to be Tesuque Pueblo first.”

The Pueblo Revolt is celebrated in many ways among the various Pueblo tribes. Nearly a decade ago, the Hopi tribal council voted to forego observing Columbus Day instead recognizing Aug. 10th as Pueblo Revolt Day, as its official tribal holiday. 

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Jonathan Sims, Pueblo of Acoma, is a filmmaker and a writer. 

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