Indigenous Archaeology in Colonial New Mexico: The Pueblo Revolt of 1680

Pueblo Revolt Book CoverMy research on the Pueblo Revolt of 1680 provided an important vehicle for the development of an emergent theoretical movement I have been a part of- Indigenous Archaeology. First defined by Joe Watkins at the University of Oklahoma, Indigenous Archaeology applies the spirit of collaboration embodied in NAGPRA to the practice of archaeology in the United States and I believe, represents the future direction of the discipline.

The Pueblo Revolt, the most successful Indigenous rebellion in the Americas, provides a powerful vehicle for the exploration (and dismantling) of several familiar themes in Indigenous histories- the role of military engagements or “conquests” as transformative events, the destruction of Indigenous cultures through acculturation and missionization, and the use of disease as a politically neutral agent of destruction. Collectively, these constitute mythologies of conquest- explanations which initiate the passage of Indigenous peoples from both a contemporary landscape and the disciplines of history and anthropology. In 2003 I was awarded a National Academies of Science Fellowship at Berkeley and was able to concentrate on this research. My recent book The Pueblo Revolt and the Mythology of Conquest: An Indigenous Archaeology of Contact (University of California Press 2009) documents the role of silver mining and slave raiding along the northern frontier of the Spanish empire, the movement of Spanish conquistadores into New Mexico in the 1500’s and the impacts that slave raiding and social violence played in fomenting powerful countervailing Indigenous movements throughout the region. In examining the cumulative effects colonial subordination, the extraction of tribute and the suppression of Indigenous religions, I demonstrate the ways in which these heavy handed policies actually helped create or activate pan-Indigenous identities. Organized around the collective experience of colonial violence and a return to newly imagined fundamentalist practices, Native peoples used mobility and social segregation in order to enforce social boundaries between themselves and colonists.

I further argue that what many archaeologists have interpreted as disease-motivated abandonments are actually migrations away from the scenes of colonial violence. The book provides documentary evidence supporting the use of state-sanctioned violence, the archaeological evidence for regional migration as well as the centrality of Cochiti Pueblo (Old Cochiti) in the Revolt of 1680. The architecture and village layout at this important center of the rebellion, suggests the creation of an idealized community with links to a collective Puebloan cosmology (an important tool in the unification of the Pueblos). The community also contained an outlying village physically distinguished from the main settlement. Lacking ritual architecture and oriented in an irregular pattern, the second community seems to anticipate the fragmentary, contested and fluid nature of ethnic identities. Its distance from the main village and lack of ritual architecture suggests a purposeful isolation. The book presents a new approach to the subjects of contact, colonial violence and the fundamentalist movements these encounters may generate. This work has obvious importance in the subject of contact period and colonial histories, but has much to offer historical and archaeological scholarship in other regions and among other peoples.

The next phase of my research will explore the historical interactions between Pueblos, Navajos and Spanish Colonists in the 18th and 19th centuries in Dineh tah, the place of emergence for Navajo Peoples. The flow of people, personnel and ideas was not halted after the Revolt. The modern configuration of Pueblo, Hispano and Dineh identities were affirmed during this poorly understood period. I am currently initiating partnerships among descendent communities within the region, and will examine the ways in which contemporary Indigenous groups and Hispanos conceive of their present statuses within the multi-ethnic community known as New Mexico.