(c. mid-1 600s-1 690)
Pope—a San Juan Pueblo Indian medicine man—was the leader of the most successful Native American rebellion of the colonial period. Pope’s Pueblo name was “Popyn” which meant “ripe plantings.”
Pope was born in the Tewa village of Oke Owinge in modern-day New Mexico. In his early years—the middle of the 17th century — Spanish missionaries tried to dissuade the Pueblo Indians from celebrating their religious rites and festivals. This caused great resentment among the Pueblos, a resentment which was aggravated by droughts that ruined their crops.
During this period, the harsh Spanish colonial rulers also provoked bitter feelings among the Native Americans. Pope preached among his people, condemning the loss of territory and cultural customs that had come as a result of Spanish rule. He believed that the Pueblo Gods disapproved of the Spanish and wouldeventually destroy them.
Pope was arrested several times for preaching these beliefs. In 1675, he was flogged in the Santa Fe main square and imprisoned with A7 other medicine men. Eventually, because of many public appeals, the Spanish governor was persuaded to release Pope and his colleagues.
Following his release from prison, Pope went into hiding and organized an armed revolt. The Spanish learned of the plot, so the insurrection began two days earlier than scheduled, on August 10, 1680. The rebelskilled 500 Spaniards—priests, settlers, and soldiers were killed indiscriminately.
Within a few days, Santa Fe was all that was left of the once-sprawling Spanish colony. Governor Antonio de Otermin decided that discretion was the better part of valor. He led the Spanish survivors south in a retreat across hundreds of miles to what is modern-day Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. New Mexico was free and in the hands of Native Americans.
We know very little about the type of government Pope then established. Some stories recount that he became a tyrant among his own people, while others assert that once he had freed his people, Pope went back to being a medicine man.
In 1692, a Spanish expedition forced its way north and reestablished the colony of Nuevo Mexico. However, Pope’s Revolt had some long-term effects. Although the Spanish reclaimed the region, they never again tried to impose their religion or culture with the brutal force they had used before the Native American insurrection.