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The Pueblo Revolt: The Secret Rebellion that Drove the Spaniards Out of the Southwest Paperback – September 2, 2005
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From Publishers Weekly
In 1598, Spain established a colony in what is today New Mexico; roughly 80 years later, more than 75% of the indigenous population was dead. A Pueblo shaman named Popé led survivors in a violent uprising in 1680 that resulted in a decade and a half of independence before the Spanish reasserted dominion over the territory. Delving into the few primary sources available, journalist Roberts (Four Against the Arctic, etc.) tries to set the record straight on this little-known, sometimes fancifully remembered event. Most notably, he corrects for the bias in surviving Spanish documents by adopting a more empathetic stance toward the Pueblo. Yet this project is hampered by the intense secrecy of modern Pueblo, which forces Roberts to incorporate into his account the struggle to find people willing to share their oral history with him. Gaining access to sacred sites and settlement ruins proves difficult, but vivid descriptions of the sites he did visit add a welcome immediacy to the tale. Roberts's enthusiastic descriptions of Pueblo art, which played a crucial role in the religious conflict behind the rebellion, would have benefited from the inclusion of photographs. For the most part, however, this chronicle admirably illuminates the historical record while highlighting the problems inherent in re-creating history from fragmentary evidence. Maps.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
In 1680, led by a charismatic shaman named Pope, the fiercely independent Pueblos of New Mexico united to drive out Spanish priests, administrators, and settlers. Although their newly won independence lasted only a dozen years, this was the only successful effort by Native Americans to remove European colonial control. Roberts, who has written extensively on southwestern history, tells this story with skill, passion, and a deep reverence for the traditions of the diverse Pueblo groups. Although his narrative style is quirky, it is effective. He bounces back and forth in time, moving from fascinating descriptions of Anasazi (the ancestors of the Pueblo Indians) culture to the age of the conquistadores to examinations of contemporary Pueblo life. Roberts, of course, is clearly sympathetic to the rebel cause, so he provides ample details of Spanish cruelty and oppression while ignoring some of the unsavory aspects of Pueblo traditions. Still, this work, which combines elements of narrative history, ethnography, and travelogue, is consistently interesting and will be a fine addition to Native American collections. Jay Freeman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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I read David Robert’s In Search of the Old Ones more than five years ago, and regret it has taken this long to read this incisive and thoughtful work that not only helps fill those large gaps in my East Coast American history education, but has helped me see the world around me in a much more informed light. Will I ever be able to drive to Los Alamos again, and not see (finally!) the Black Mesa to the right, and recall the ancient retreat, and battle that occurred there? And what I have always thought of as the “back way up to Santa Fe,” and is billed as the Turquoise Trail (through Madrid) crosses the Galisteo basin, which once held the most populous pueblos in New Mexico.
Though the title implies a history of a 12 year period, 1680-1692, which is when the Indians of the pueblos successfully united and drove the Spanish from present day New Mexico, and lived independent of Spanish rule, Robert’s work covers much more. In the prologue, Roberts admits that his history is weighted in favor of the Indians. After covering the particulars which initiated the commencement of the revolt, he then back tracks and discusses the migration of the Indians from such places as Chaco Canyon and the present-day “Four Corners” region to the Pueblos, mainly along, and near the Rio Grande region. He posits the reason for the movement to be a combination of climatic change and religion, specifically identifying the new religion associated with Kachinas.
The first half of the book covers the history of the Spanish “entrada” into the region, notably Coronado’s expedition of 1540 in search of the “seven cities of gold,” (or Cibola). After almost a 60 year hiatus, the Spanish came back in force, led by Onate, at the end of the 1500’s. With body armor and guns, it was very asymmetric warfare, and a small group of Spaniards were able to subjugate a much larger group of natives, with the all-too-often colonial “cover story” that they were bringing enlightenment and the “proper” religion to those living in “darkness.” Roberts then depicts the following 80 years, and how the Spaniards were largely blind to the native resentment to their rule, including the Spaniard’s suppression of the native’s religious practices and leaders.
Roberts describes his extensive touring of the “battlefields” of the revolt, in an attempt to obtain a “feel” for what must have occurred. Much is still unknown, particularly how the Indians lived during their 12 years of independence. In terms of historical documents, there are only the Spanish ones, difficult to read in medieval, stilted Spanish. Roberts applies an appropriate amount of skepticism to their self-serving nature (true of all wars, I suppose). On the other side, the Indians have the oral traditions, handed down over more than 300 years. And in general, as Roberts discusses in detail, they share only a very limited portion with those outside the tribe. One of the most fascinating of Roberts’ insights is that that reluctance might stem from a general antipathy of humans for recounting “bad times,” and that more of the focus of their traditions is on their migration into the area. Roberts also mentions how numerous Indian youths know nothing of this revolt (which might be typical of all youth not knowing their history.)
It was Popé, a shaman from San Juan pueblo, who had been tortured by the Spanish (any lessons of the efficacy of torture?) who led the revolt. Not all pueblos were united in the original effort – which Roberts documents well – and in the intervening 12 years, internal divisions, certainly exacerbated by difference in languages – made the re-conquest easier. Spanish descendants today like to bill this re-conquest as “bloodless.” Roberts demonstrates otherwise, but does indicate that some pueblos did welcome the Spanish, as allies in their fights with the nomadic Apaches and Comanche, who would raid their villages. Another interesting aspect of the re-conquest was the dispersion of pueblo peoples to distant tribes, such as the Hopis in modern-day Arizona.
I’ve just re-read Huxley’s Brave New World. It was fascinating to see the amount of New Mexico place names and history in his work. And Linda, a woman who had been left behind in New Mexico, and “went native,” has a lover: Popé!
An excellent account of a very neglected part of American history – the most successfully effort on the part of the American Indians in resisting the coming of the white man to their territories. Particularly for someone living in New Mexico, Robert’s account remains an essential 5-star, plus, read.
Roberts does an excellent job of pulling together a subtle part of our nation's history and presenting it in an enjoyable to read narrative. It is pretty amazing that the pueblo groups revolted and completely kicked the Spanish out in 1680. I liked his combination of historical story telling and personal narrative. He has obviously done extensive research both into the Spanish journals and texts from the late 1500's and early 1600's, personal interviews, and visiting a myriad of sites.
I can see where he could probably have missed some nuances and facts, this is a large subject and the key players' descendants in the area are famously shy about talking to anyone. Overall, though, his facts and research come together to paint a picture that helped me understand the context of pueblo culture in New Mexico. Surprisingly, in spite of his apology to the contrary, I did not find him overly sympathetic to either group, the Spanish or the Pueblo groups. In fact, after reading the book I have a higher regard for the Spanish than I did before.
We have modified our two week vacation to spend additional time visiting Sky City (Acoma), one of the key pueblos he mentions with the hope of hearing some of the story from the Native American viewpoint (prior to now, our visits have been mostly at National Parks). I would highly recommend this book to anyone going to North or Northwest New Mexico, it will give some structure to what you are seeing and engage you in a story like no other played out in The Americas.
This was was different than the others in that the Indians won. The Spanish were driven out and the Indians were independent for a dozen years or so. This is the only incident where the Indians were successful in driving out the white settlers for a lengthy period of time.
The book is quite well done for a light, non textbook, easy to read effort. It is based on the oral history of the Indians and the surviving Spanish documents from the time. The bibliography is especially well done. the author has made comments about the various books and documents that give them a better relationship to the book than is normally the case where only title, author, publisher are given