Francisco Vasquez de Coronado was told by the Spanish Crown to lead an expedition in America southwest to “locate the seven cities of gold” mentioned by Cabeza de Vaca and Estevanico. With his forces he invaded the Zuni pueblos of Arizona and defeated them. The Spanish then went to the Hopi pueblo of Awatovi. The Hopi sent them north to the Grand Canyon. De Cardenas, Coronado’s lieutenant, was the first European to see it. Coronado and his troops went on east towards the 90 pueblos of the Rio Grande. When he arrived he ordered the Indians to leave their homes, provide food for his men, and give him all the valuables they had. The Indians were brutally treated, Inquisition style. The people of the Kuaua pueblo as well as other pueblos of the Tigeux province revolted against the Spanish> The Kuaua pueblo was destroyed and later abandoned.
The Rio Grande pueblos were invaded by the Spaniard during the period 1590 to 1598 coming through the Rio Grande valley. Juan de Onate was appointed governor of New Mexico. Apaches and Pueblo people drove them back but in 1598 the Spanish succeeded to establish a colony at San Juan Pueblo in Northern New Mexico.
Starting mainly in 1600 the Spanish kidnapped Apaches, Navajos and Utes who lived near Spanish colonies in New Mexico to use them as slave labour or household servants. The Spanish governor also sold kidnapped Indians to the silver mining camps in the south. They used Pueblo warriors to capture other Indians. Spanish law forbade Indian to ride horses so they had to walk Spanish kidnapping, above all of Navajos, went on until the early 1900s.
In 1609 the Spanish Crown gave land grants around Santa Fe and encouraged the establishment of Catholic Missions in the pueblos. However the war between the Spanish, the Pueblo people and the Navajos went on as well as the Spanish habit of taking Navajo women and children as slaves.
In 1621 the Spanish Governor authorised the ranchers to employ Pueblo men on horses (encomienda system, area of land and its native inhabitants given to a Conquistador) against the advice of the Church. When a Pueblo man escaped so now did his horses. Moreover the Apaches stole horses from the Pueblo and learned to fight on horseback. Apaches and Navajos became raided the Spanish settlements and Pueblo towns.
In 1629/1633 Spanish soldiers imposed the presence of missionaries and missions to Acoma, Hopi and Zuni pueblos. The Indians were also obliged to work for them, and to build churches, without retribution. These missions were controlling large Indian population at a low cost. The Zuni priests, afraid that the Catholic priests would destroy their religion, began to organise a military opposition.
In 1633, after four years of preparation the Zuni revolted and their warriors killed all the Spanish soldiers and two of the four missionaries present. Spanish reprisals drove them to the top of Corn Mesa where some remained at least ten years.
The Taos Indians left their pueblo in New Mexico and travelled with horses stolen to the Spanish to western Kansas in 1639. In this way horses were introduced to the Kiowa, Comanche, Wichita and other southern tribes. A civil war went on in 1641 and 1642 between the Spanish in New Mexico and was devastating to the Pueblo and other Indian tribes caught in the middle of it. The Apaches of the Zuni Mountains attacked the Spaniard in 1650.
The Pueblo religions were suppressed in New Mexico in 1661. Kivas, many kaschina masks and other religious objects were destroyed or burned by the Spanish soldiers. Ceremonial dances were outlawed.
In 1664 the Spanish restricted the Pueblos’ freedom to trade and associate. This decision was taken to prevent the Pueblos to sell horses and supplies to the Apaches who were raiding and harassing the Spanish.
In 1680 Popé and 46 traditional Pueblo religious leaders were arrested and whipped them in public for “idolatry” by the Spanish. The Pueblo villages revolted and succeeded to send the Spanish out of New Mexico for the next 20 years. The revolt started at the Taos Pueblo on August 10, 1680 and spread quickly to all villages. Spanish missionaries were thrown down cliffs and functionaries were killed. In all 21 priests and 400 Spanish were killed. Crosses and rosaries were destroyed or burned; the names of Christian deities and the Spanish language were forbidden.
Spanish military commander Diego de Vargas was given the order to retake the Pueblos. The operation lasted from 1692 to 1696. Many Pueblo people chose to move west to live with the Hopi and the Navajo in Arizona and New Mexico rather than under Spanish rule. Many pueblos were destroyed or abandoned. Only 19 of more than 90 pre-revolt Rio Grande villages survived. Santa Fe became the Spanish capital of New Mexico.
In 1700 the Hopis killed all the male villagers of Awatowi and burned their buildings –including the kivas- because they were friendly with the Spanish priests and agree the return of a Spanish mission. They settled the women and children in other villages. The Spanish priests used Indian labour to build the churches and to work in the fields. Their economical and political control was in direct opposition to the traditional leadership of the Hopi villages, which was chosen by birth, clan, and family. The Hopi as a whole did not want any Spanish intrusion in their way of life.
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In 1769 the Spanish founded a mission in San Diego, their first of 21 missions along the California coast from san Diego to san Francisco, one day journey apart. Thousand of Indians were Christianized and obliged to work for the missions. All tribal ties were suppressed and all traditional religions forbidden. The Indians resisted by poisoning priests, burning churches, and through uprising but in the end they lost. The coastal California Indian population was reduced from about 70,000 to less than 15,000 in 30 years.
Starting in 1780 the Spanish expanded the mission system in California. Fort and presidio were created along the coast. Smaller garrisons were also established.