Manuel Cristobal: Decolonizing the Pueblo tribes
"On Aug. 10, 2008, we honored the Ohkay Owingeh (formerly San Juan Pueblo) leader Pope who led the Pueblo Indian Revolt, which took place Aug. 10, 1680. It was not simply a revolt as portrayed in New Mexico’s colonial history, but the only successful indigenous revolution against the powerful sovereign of Spain, and long before the American Revolution of 1775 – 1783.

We also commemorate this historic anniversary to all the warriors, the Keres, Walatowa, Tiwa, Tewa, Zuni, Hopi, Apache, Comanche, and Diné. I would like to honor this day with a peaceful gesture, a symbol of hope. In this spirit and contemporary time, we are all here to address the impact of Spanish colonialism 400 years afterward and the ramifications on the Pueblo people today. The majority of the public have no comprehension of the psychological “brainwashing” still prevalent within pueblo communities.

It was the Spanish thought and culture instituted from 1620 that was designed to eradicate our Pueblo beliefs and culture. In 1620, by royal decree of the King of Spain, the Keres, Tiwa, Tewa, Walatowa, and Zuni, were formed into civil government and given Spanish canes of authority. These institutions were designed to make us servants of indoctrination of a life of servitude, which is still practiced today. Mexican officials gave Pueblos canes after Mexico won its independence from Spain in 1821. President Abraham Lincoln also presented canes in recognition of the pueblo’s non-violent position toward the United States during the American Civil War.

Most recently, King Juan Carlos of Spain presented the Spanish canes to the All Indian Pueblo Council. Former New Mexico Gov. Bruce King affirmed the same recognition with a presentation of 19 canes to the pueblos. In 2007, Spain gave the Pueblo of Acoma a cane, so tribal officials would not contest the controversial, three-story-tall bronze statue “The Equestrian” in El Paso, Texas.

Another example of such an interpretation of Spanish influence today is the patron Saint Santiago (the saint of conquest) who appears in a drama acted out during some pueblo feast days. Santiago appears in the ceremony wearing Spanish style clothing, carrying a sword and a cross while riding a puppeteer horse. He is called “sandero” (Spanish solider) by the Pueblos who impersonate him. “Santiago” is also a Spanish war cry, which echoes an eternity of human suffering. Is this the perception of celebration?

Who are we honoring this day? What is wrong with this picture?"

Get the Story:
Manuel R. Cristobal: Decolonizing is pueblos’ first step (Indian Country Today 10/23)