Reviewed by Lorraine Coops (Brock University.)
Published on H-Survey (October, 1999)
Making Sense of the Pueblo Revolt of 1680
For those unfamiliar with the new series, Historians at Work, the general aim as described by Advisory Editor Edward Countryman is "to show how serious scholars have made sense of the past and why what they do is both enjoyable and worthwhile" (p. iv). In the case of the compact book under review here, the topic proffered to achieve this goal is the until recently often overlooked 1680 revolt (also known as Pope's Revolt) of the Pueblos against the Spanish settlers who had occupied territory in what is now New Mexico.
Right off the top the book's presentation promises a well-crafted work, and the reader is not disappointed. Each section, from the title page through to the final bibliographic essay, has a professional look, with the details--such as endnotes--done in a scholarly manner. In addition, special instructional sections, such as "A Note for Students" (appearing just before the contents), provide insights into the rudiments of historical research, interpretation, and writing, the aim being to both enlighten and motivate student readers.
The events and principal characters relating to the revolt are presented in a bare-bones, but nonetheless insightful and informative, introduction, the second part of which consists of an historiographical essay in which Weber places the five essays that make up the bulk of the book within their historical context. The introduction itself provides a useful model for those wishing to illustrate to students the way writing can be at once minimal and meaningful. Although just thirteen pages long, the introduction more than adequately summarizes both the "facts" of the revolt and the evolution of the historical writing that has described it.
Touched on in the introduction is one of the key points students need to realize when examining native history: that the sources for our understanding of native groups are often limited and one-sided. Although more could be said about this, Weber is careful to lay out the difficulties of reconstructing the native perspective, and how historians now use a variety of sources and methodologies to try and create a less Eurocentric narrative of the colonial era. Of course the aim is to achieve a balance, as Weber suggests, for "without careful reconstructions of the past ... we would be vulnerable to mythmakers who demonize all Indians or those who categorically ennoble them, and we would have no argument to offer against those who caricature Spaniards as villains or heroes" (p. vi).
In recent years, Weber notes, historical sensibilities have begun to change, so that the Pueblo revolt has now taken its place in textbooks along side other native uprisings, such as the Wampanoag revolt against the English (1675-76), led by chief Metacom (and dubbed King Philip's War). The appearance of the Pueblo revolt in textbooks is fortunate, for it provides users of Weber's book with a convenient starting point for a discussion of the event. Do textbooks simply present the facts, or do they attempt to explain the reasons behind the revolt? And if explanations are provided, how do these fit in with the viewpoints expressed by Weber and the essayists?
Recent textbooks, such as American Passages: A History of the United States (Fort Worth: Harcourt College Publishers, 2000) and The American Journey: A History of the United States (Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 1998), choose to explain the revolt as a combination of factors, all of which are analyzed in greater detail in Weber's collection. In keeping with the current trend to write more inclusive histories that deal with the experiences of the colonized as well as the colonizers and colonists, students now have the opportunity to discover more varied interpretations of the development of the United States.
While the decision as to which essays to include might be challenged, especially by those more intimately involved in the study of the Southwest than myself, the intention in this review is not to critique the choices but, rather, to focus on how beneficial the volume as a whole might be for students in (North) American history survey courses.
What needs to be kept in mind is that a key objective of the book is to present a range of opinions so that students can appreciate that issues can be approached in a variety of ways. The essays do provide sufficiently diverse perspectives and/or interpretations of the topic under examination to meet this goal. If other points of view were deemed essential to the understanding of the revolt, instructors could add these to the mix as well. Indeed, finding additional sources might make for an interesting assignment.
Befitting a book intended to instruct, each article is preceded by a brief synopsis of the author's thesis, with a discussion of its importance or significance. Several "Questions for a Closer Reading" are also provided to give students "food for thought" as they approach the essays. For example, in the first article, Henry Warner Bowden's "Spanish Missions, Cultural Conflict, and the Pueblo Revolt of 1680," Weber advises the reader to consider Spanish Catholicism versus Pueblo religious beliefs, and whether Bowden presents a convincing argument that the "Pueblos' religious beliefs were more important than Apache raids or drought in causing them to revolt" (p. 22).
The second article, Ramon A. Gutierrez's "Franciscans and the Pueblo Revolt," presents a quite different opinion. Unlike the Franciscans in Bowden's essay, Gutierrez portrays the missionaries "as skillful manipulators of Indians, whose beliefs the priests understood in general if not in particular" (p. 39). Gutierrez's piece is beneficial not only for its alternative view, but also for its inclusion and treatment of (translated) first-hand reports. Primary sources are useful not only to point out (in this case) Eurocentric biases, but also because they illustrate how historians interpret them in the creation of history. If this reviewer were to add anything to the book it would be a sampling of primary sources. Students can benefit from looking at and interpreting the same primary sources as the professional scholars. Primary sources also help the students to "get inside the heads" of people in the past--to try and understand individuals' motivations and experiences from their perspective. Peeling away the layers of the colonial facade can help students discover both sides of the story. If our goal as teachers is to make history "real" to the students, then primary sources need to be incorporated into our work.
Juxtaposed between the essays best suited for comparison (i.e., first vs. second and fourth vs. fifth) is Van Hastings Garner's "Seventeenth-Century New Mexico," which asserts that "drought, famine, and Apache raids of the 1670s" (p. 55) were the essential causes of the revolt. Garner sees these events as adding to an already weakened Spanish-Indian relationship. This relationship forms part of the discussion in the book's fourth article, Angelio Chavez's "Pohe-yemo's Representative and the Pueblo Revolt of 1680." Here, however, the author's Catholic-Hispanic background--he entered a Franciscan seminary in 1924 and served as a priest until his death in 1996--must be taken into account when assessing the Spanish missionaries. More useful is Chavez's illumination of Pueblo religion and mythology, and his argument that since Pueblos were generally "satisfied with things the way they were" (p. 85), it took a non-Pueblo to lead the revolt.
This position is challenged by the final entry, Andrew L. Knaut's "Acculturation and Miscegenation: The Changing Face of the Spanish Presence in New Mexico." Here the author argues that "miscegenation and acculturation did not lead to harmony ..., but rather contributed to the ... revolt" (p. 115). In contrast to Chavez, Knaut argues that Pueblos had more than enough reason and ample ability to lead the uprising.
The book concludes with a brief "Making Connections" section, wherein the major points and contrasts of the articles are examined and where readers are asked to come to their own conclusions. The final part of the book contains a bibliographic essay, wherein Weber offers his "Suggestions for Further Reading." Like other sections this is a brief, but respectable, overview of the area. For this reviewer's part, more attention could be paid to similarities outside the Spanish colonial experience, such as the interesting comparison that could be drawn between the Franciscans in New Mexico and the Jesuits in Ontario. Many members of both orders envisioned suffering and/or martyrdom as the ultimate expression of their faith.
In conclusion, What Caused the Pueblo Revolt of 1680 is a very pleasing book that could be used in a variety of ways within the survey course format. For example, the book could be a useful resource for those courses which include a tutorial or seminar component. Debates could be generated by asking students to discuss the revolt under the broad questions posed by Weber. But What Caused the Pueblo Revolt does not have to be confined to the tutorial setting. By gathering a variety of interpretations into one volume, Weber has created a valuable research resource, which would be very helpful for students writing term papers on topics such as native-white relations, Spanish colonialism, or the experiences of the colonized and the colonizers. Indeed, one might wish that other topics would receive the same kind of treatment. But not all historical events have generated the kind of variety of interpretation that the Pueblo revolt of 1680 has. The raison d'etre behind the Historians at Work series is diversity of opinion. Topics that provoke little controversy would not work in this format.
Weber suggests that "As with other moments in time, the Pueblo Revolt is gone. It lives on only in oral traditions, in the written words of those who witnessed it, and in the work of scholars who try to reconstruct it." Hopefully through his efforts in editing this volume, the Pueblo Revolt will not only not be forgotten, but will generate further investigation by students and instructors alike.
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Lorraine Coops. Review of Weber, David J., ed., What Caused the Pueblo Revolt of 1680?.
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