After three generations of oppression, in the spring of 1680, the Pueblo Indians rose up to overthrow the Spanish. A religious leader from Taos Pueblo named Pope (sometimes found as Popay) secretly organized a widespread rebellion to occur throughout the region on a single day. Planning took shape silently during the summer of 1680 in more than 70 communities, from Santa Fe and Taos in the Rio Grande valley to the Hopi pueblos nearly 300 miles west. On the night of August 10, 1680, Indians in more than two dozen pueblos simultaneously attacked the Spanish authorities. A force of 2,500 Indian warriors sacked and burned the colonial headquarters in Santa Fe. By the time the revolt succeeded, Indian fighters had killed more than 400 Spanish soldiers and civilians (including two-thirds of the Catholic priests in the region) and had driven the surviving Europeans back to El Paso.
The Indian leaders then restored their own religious institutions and set up a government that lasted until 1692. The Pueblo Revolt of 1680 was the single most successful act of resistance by Native Americans against a European invader. It established Indian independence in the pueblos for more than a decade, and even after Spanish domination was re-imposed it forced the imperial authorities to observe religious tolerance. Ever since the seventeenth century, the cross and the kiva have existed side by side in pueblo communities.
The documents presented here give both Spanish and Indian versions of the events of August 1680. AJ-009a includes 13 documents written in August 1680 by Spanish leader Don Antonio de Otermín as he attempted to discover what was happening. It includes his reports and legal documents, as well as depositions by witnesses. Document AJ-009b is comprised of several interviews conducted by authorities the following year with Indians who had known about the conspiracy or been involved in the revolt.
The Cibola Project at the University of California-Berkeley proposes to include newly edited and translated documents about the Pueblo Revolt of 1680 when it is completed. This project is described in "Trouble for the Spanish: The Pueblo Revolt of 1680" by Pedro Ponce; in the NEH newsletter (Nov.-Dec. 2002, pp. 20-24) available online at
In the 1670’s, drought swept the region, which caused famine among the pueblos and provoked increased attacks from neighboring nomadic tribes. Due to the number of attacks, the Spanish soldiers were not always able to defend the pueblos. At about the same time, European-introduced diseases were ravaging the pueblos and greatly decreasing their numbers. Becoming increasingly dissatisfied with the Spanish, the Puebloans turned to their old religions, provoking a wave of repression from the Franciscan missionaries. While the missionaries had previously tended to ignore the occasional pueblo ceremonies as long as the people made some effort to attend mass, the Puebloans renewed vigor towards their religions caused the Fray Alonso de Posada to forbid Kachina dances by the Pueblo Indians and ordered the missionaries to seize every mask, prayer stick, and effigy they could lay their hands on and burn them.
In 1675, the tension came to a head when Governor Juan Francisco Treviño ordered the arrest of 47 and accused them of practicing witchcraft. Four of the men were sentenced to be hanged – three of those sentences were carried out, while the fourth prisoner committed suicide. The remaining men were publicly whipped and sentenced to prison. When this news reached the leaders, they moved in force to , where the prisoners were held. Because a large number of Spanish soldiers were away fighting the , Governor Treviño released the prisoners. Among those who were released was a medicine man from the San Juan Pueblo (now known as ), named Popé, who would soon become the leader of the Pueblo Rebellion. Popé then moved to and began plotting with men from other pueblos to drive out the Spaniards.