History of Popé (also spelled Po’pay) &
Pueblo Revolt of 1680
Popé was born around 1630 in Ohkay Owingeh, in what is now the state of New Mexico; his given name was Popein (pronounced bó -bein), which means "ripe squash" in the Tewa language. In his life’s journey and commitment to his people, he became a religious leader and was responsible for traditional religious activities. In his role as a religious leader, time passed, and was aware of his people’s suffering under Spanish settlers. Pueblo people were forced to provide labor, food and other items to support the growing Spanish communities. The Spaniards also pressured the Pueblo People to convert from Pueblo religion and way of life…to adopt Christianity—those Pueblo people found practicing their traditional Pueblo religion were tortured and in some instances, executed.
In 1675, Popé and 46 other Pueblo leaders were convicted of “sorcery” and he was among those who were flogged, while others were executed. In 1680, Popé organized the Pueblo Revolt against the Spanish. It has been said that this was the first successful revolution against an oppressor on North American soil. According to our cultural stories, to coordinate the timing of the uprising, he and his followers sent runners to each Pueblo with knotted deerskin strips. One knot was to be untied each day, and the revolt would begin on the day the last one was untied. However, the Spaniards arrested two of the Pueblo runners, and the Pueblo communities were quickly notified to accelerate the start of the revolt. The attacks began on August 10, two days before the last knot would have been untied. The Spaniards took refuge in Santa Fe; the besieging Pueblo Indians cut off their water supply to the point of surrender, but soon permitted them to leave the area and travel south into Mexico. The Pueblo Revolt of 1680 holds great historical significance because it helped ensure the survival of Pueblo cultural traditions, land, language, religion, and sovereignty while preserving a respect for life, harmony, peace and freedom.
The first Popé Sculpture – U.S. Capitol Building
In 1997, the New Mexico Legislature selected Popé I to represent the state in the United States National Statuary Hall in Washington DC. Each state has two statues in the Hall which represent significant historical figures from their history. Popé is the seventh statue depicting an American Indian in the collection. (The others are King Kamehameha I (Native Hawaiian), Will Rogers (Cherokee ancestry), Sakakawea (Shoshone), Sequoyah (Cherokee), Chief Washakie (Shoshone), and Sarah Winnemucca (Paiute).
The seven-foot-high statue was carved from pink Tennessee marble (making it the only colored marble statue in the collection). In addition, Popé is historically the first person represented in the collection to be born on what would later become American soil.
The Artist and the second Popé Sculpture at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center
Cliff Fragua, is from Walatowa, also known as Jemez Pueblo, he studied sculpture in Italy, California, and New Mexico; he created his first stone sculpture in 1974. Popé II is carved from the same pink Tennessee marble stone acquired for Popé I. The sculpture stands 7 feet tall and welcomes visitors in the south rotunda entrance of the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
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