Haphazard Observations of the Everyday

And a little fiction by Miguela Holt y Roybal

Miguela Holt y Roybal

Miguela Holt y Roybal
New Mexico, USA
March 10
Monarch of All She Surveys
Miguela Holt y Roybal is my maiden name en Espanol. I am a retired schoolteacher and aspiring author looking for crumbs of beauty among the ruins. My novel has been a work in progress for longer than I care to admit. It is a postmodern pastiche of magical realism and about a young woman from New Mexico who goes to work in Washington, DC during the 1980s. She has been a longtime witness to the secret rituals of the Penitente culture in her home state and learns about herself and redemption as she sallies forth on her quest for novelty and adventure. I claim fair useage of images found on the internet that illustrate some of my posts. All contents copyrighted by the author unless otherwise noted. All rights reserved.


OCTOBER 10, 2011 1:55PM

Popé, the Tewan Chieftain who Fought the Spaniards

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Pope Tewa Chieftain 

(A statue of Popé at Ohkay Owingeh, New Mexico.  Courtesy of Google images.)

Today, on Columbus Day, I would like to tell you  about Popé, a Tewan chieftain and medicine man.  He was a fierce defender of his people against Spanish colonization.  His legacy is convoluted-- swathed in legend and mystery--just as is Cristobol Colon's.  

Popé hailed from the San Juan pueblo in the land that is now New Mexico and made his first historical appearance in 1675.  It is said that he was the leader of some native shamans who were accused by Catholic missionaries of witchcraft.  The legend goes that he and his men either murdered the missionaries who had imprisoned them or perhaps he went to Santa Fe alone and demanded the release of the prisoners from the Spanish governor.  No one really knows.

He gained fame for his resistance and from Taos, Popé preached the doctrine of independence from the Spaniards and marshalled other chiefs from nearby pueblos to join him in a rebellion: Catiti of Santo Domingo, Tupatú of Picuris (my own pueblo ancestors), and Jaca of Taos. Using a system of knotted ropes to mark the days leading to the uprising, Popé led his men in a revolt on August 10, 1680. They killed every single priest, soldier, and missionary among the colonists driving the other Spaniards all the way south to El Paso. Popé and his men burned the churches and destroyed all evidence of the Spanish presence in their territory.

The native people returned to their traditional way of life.  Popé is said to have "unbaptized" his people by bathing them in yucca suds.  Before long, though, the tribes began fighting with each other.  Navajo, Ute, and Apaches mounted attacks against the pueblos and the Spaniards were no longer there to protect them. 

The pueblo wars prevented the people from noticing that the Spaniards had not forgotten them and soldiers were an increasing presence in the area.  Don Diego de Vargas was selected as the governor of the territory and he learned from spies that Popé's army had fallen apart.  In 1692, DeVargas and his men caught the pueblos off guard and reconquered Santa Fe.  In the following four years, the soldiers took over the pueblos one by one.  Popé died before the Spaniards were in complete control and were there to stay.

That is the sad story of a man who tried and failed to protect his people from the march of European expansion into the new world.  I could not find any direct quotes from Popé to end this post.  However, here is a verse by Donehogawa (Ely Parker), a Seneca, and the first Indian Commissioner of Indian Affairs for the U. S. government.  It describes the loss of a whole civilization:

Our dust and bones.
Ashes cold and white.
I see no longer the curling smoke rising.
I hear no longer the songs of women.
Only the wail of the coyote is heard.





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What a good and brave man Pope was. May you ad others be able to keep his memory thriving. r.
I know he was defeated but still feel a sense of pride for him and his people for trying to resist.
What a great post. I love learning new things, and this hit the spot. They teach kids everyday about Columbus, and the lies about the murder, rape and pillages is never told. Such a shame that history is made up by the people in power.
Just hearing that Popè and his people drove the bastard Spanish away for a while and scrubbed the land of any trace of them is an inspirational story.. so thank you
I have an overwhelming urge to wash my hands in yucca suds.
Wonderful post; I felt like I was in college again!
Re-writing pervades the history books. Thanks for your input to give the other side of the story.
I had no idea about this. Thanks for the blog and it is Thanksgiving in Canada..
Yucca suds indeed. I like the spiritual component to Pope's rebellion quite a bit, sounds way more successful than the Ghost Dance. Thank you for bringing it to our attention, Miguela!
We, collectively, have so much history that is unknown. Thank you for sharing this.
An incredible post (again). I love how your heart sings the songs of those who have been forgotten...or threatened to be forgotten. You made me think deeply today!!
It's sad that despite the efforts of this brave and righteous man people still act out of selfish motives, kill each other and ruin whatever good thing they might have had. Indians blame the Europeans for what they did, but the Indians were no better to each other just as the Europeans were and are no better amongst themselves or we Americans of all stripes and derivations, are no better amongst ourselves. We're a f*cked up species. Simple as that.
What a beautiful story, thank you for sharing it with us this day.
rated with love
Thanks for writing this good story about yet another overlooked part of our collective history.