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.
(BACKGROUND: From Glenn Welker's website)
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 immediately.
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 longer.
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.