Pope Tewa Indian Chief

Pope (1’o rye). A celebrated Tewa medicine-man, native of the pueblo of San Juan, who first appears in New Mexico history in 1675 as a leader either of some prisoners charged with witchcraft, and with killing several missionaries, or of a party that visited the Spanish governor at Santa Fe in that year demanding their release. Later making Taos the seat of his efforts, he quietly preached the doctrine of independence of Spanish authority and the restoration of the old Pueblo life, which developed into a plot to murder or drive from the country the 2,400 Spanish colonists and priests.
     Chief among Pope’s adherents were Catiti of Santo Domingo, Tupatú of Picuris, and Jaca of Taos. The plot quickly spread among the Pueblos, meeting with enthusiasm as it went. Aug. 13, 1680, was the day set for the onslaught, and the news was communicated by runners, even to the far-off Hopi in Arizona, by means of a knotted string; but for some reason the Piros of the lower Rio Grande were not invited to join in the massacre. Every precaution was taken to keep from the Spaniards all news of the proposed revolt; no woman was permitted to know of it, and, because suspected of treachery, Pope put his own brother-in-law to death. Nevertheless the news leaked out, and Pope’s only hope of success was to strike at once. The blow came on Aug. 10. Four hundred Spanish colonists, including 21 priests, were murdered, and Santa Fe was besieged, its thousand inhabitants taking refuge with Gov. Antonio de Otermin in the official buildings. Here they remained until the 20th, when a sortie made by 100 of the men resulted in the rout of the Indians, 200 being killed and 47 captured and banged in the plaza of the town. The following day the Spaniards abandoned Santa Fe and began their long retreat down the Rio Grande to El Paso.
      Having accomplished this much, Pope set about to realize the rest of his dream. Those who had been baptized as Christians were washed with yucca suds; the Spanish language and all baptismal names were prohibited; where not already consumed by the burning of the churches, all Christian objects were destroyed, and everything done to restore the old order of things. This project of obliterating everything Spanish from the life and thought of the Indians met with the same enthusiasm as that with which the plan of revolt had been received, and for a time Pope, dressed in ceremonial garb as he went from pueblo to pueblo, was everywhere received with honor. His success, however, had been more than he could stand.
     Assuming the rule of a despot, he put to death those who refused to obey his commands, and took the most beautiful women for himself and his captains. Then the old enemies of the Pueblos intervened drought, and the Apache and Ute, who took advantage of the absence of the Spaniards to resume their forays. Internal dissension also arose. The Keresan tribes and the Taos and Pecos people fought against the Tewa and Tanos, and the latter deposed Pope on account of his lordly demands, electing to his place Luis Tupatú, who ruled the Tewa and Tanos until 1688, when Pope was again elected: but he died before the reconquest of the province by Vargas in 1692.

Index of Tribes or Nations


Hodge, Frederick Webb, Compiler. The Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico. Bureau of American Ethnology, Government Printing Office. 1906.

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