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“The Pueblo Revolt Against the Spanish: A First Mesa Account”

Portrait of Albert Yava“Portrait of Albert Yava,” Unidentified (Photographer)

Hopis learn their history through storytelling. They are often related to or familiar with the people involved in historical events. Here, Nuvayoiyava (Albert Yava) tells this story about the Pueblo Revolt of 1680.

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The village leaders and the people were always thinking about how they might get rid of the Castillas—that’s what they called the Spanish. Then one time they got word from the Eastern Pueblos that some kind of uprising was being planned. They sent a delegation over there, representing the main Hopi villages, and found out that the Eastern Pueblos had gotten together and were preparing a revolt under the leadership of a Tewa named Po’pay, who came from San Juan or Santa Clara, which had been called Kapo until the Spanish renamed it.

In Tewa, Po’pay means water-bug—mosquito larva—and they say he was called that because he was always in motion. In Hopi they call him Pa’ateu. He was probably a Water Clan man. He was the driving force of the revolt. After he got the Tewas to back him up, he went to the other pueblos organizing and getting support.

Well, the Hopis joined forces with the Eastern Pueblos. A particular day had been set for the beginning of the attack against the Castillas. The Hopi delegation brought back a buckskin thong with a number of knots in it, indicating the days to go before the uprising. The last knot on the thong represented the day when all the villages on the Rio Grande side and the Hopi side were supposed to go into action.

Pueblo Men, Place of the Governor’s, Santa Fe with Navajo Blanket“Pueblo Men, Place of the Governor’s, Santa Fe with Navajo Blanket,” Unidentified (Photographer)

But after the Hopi delegation returned home, Po’pay learned that someone had revealed plans for the uprising to the Spanish, and so he moved the date of the attack ahead. As a result, the uprising along the Rio Grande began before the Hopis came to that last knot in the thong. The date was August 10, 1680.

The Eastern Pueblos struck hard, killed a lot of Spaniards, and drove the rest of them south into Mexico. Of course, all that didn’t happen on the first day. After the first attack, the Indians just kept pressing the Castillas until they were gone from Pueblo country.

Back here in the Hopi villages, the revolt started a couple of days later. In Oraibi, a war party attacked the church and the outbuildings. It seems that some of the padres and their assistants were away at the time, having gone somewhere for supplies. They say over there that the Badger Clan warriors took the lead. They killed two padres, their Indian assistants, and a few Spanish soldiers who were stationed in the village. They dragged the bodies away and threw them in deep washes.

Boys Standing Outside Laguna Church“Boys Standing Outside Laguna Church,” Unidentified (Photographer)

After that they looted the church, stripping out all the paraphernalia. The church livestock was divided among the clans. The One Horn Society took the steel lances of the Castilla soldiers and put them in the kiva as a record of the event. After that, the people razed the church to the ground, stone by stone and beam by beam. They scattered the stones in all directions, and stacked up the beams for future use. The large church bells were hauled away and sealed up in a secret crypt.

At Keuchaptevela, over here on First Mesa, the church was torn down the same way, and the big bells were taken out in the valley and buried at a place of drifting sand. On top of the mesa they laid out a line of stones pointing to where the bells were buried. In later years, people sometimes went to the line of stones and sighted along it to see whether the sand might have drifted away and uncovered the bells. Our One Horn Society on First Mesa has some souvenirs of the church, some small bells that look like sleigh bells. We ring those bells sometimes when we are chanting in a ceremony.

Walpi Pueblo“Walpi Pueblo,” H. F. Robinson (Photographer)

All the villages tore down their churches. In Awatovi everything was torn down except some of the outbuildings, which were later converted into living quarters by some of the families. Of course, the Hopis didn’t have to confront Spanish military forces, but what they did took some courage because it invited reprisals by the Spaniards.

“In time it began to look as if the Castillas weren't coming back.”

After that they waited, expecting that one day or another the Castillas would arrive to punish them. The Keuchaptevela people moved their village to the top of the mesa, where Walpi is today, for more security. Other villages also moved to higher ground. Awatovi already was on top of Antelope Mesa. In time it began to look as if the Castillas weren’t coming back. They were gradually resuming their control over the Eastern Pueblos, and I guess they were too preoccupied with that to think much about the Hopi villages.