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Reading 1



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Determining the Facts

Reading 2: The Coming of the Spaniards

In 1598, a Spanish expedition led by Don Juan de Oñate entered New Mexico to establish a permanent colony. Three major battles between the Spanish and Pueblo Indians occurred between 1599 and 1601. When the Spanish soldiers finally established control they declared their intention to Christianize the Indians and demanded supplies and other support for their missionaries. Oñate collected tribute from the villagers of Gran Quivira and demanded their allegiance to the Spanish King. In the early 1600s, another Spanish expedition entered the region, this time from the south. These Spaniards named the Gran Quivira community "Pueblo de Las Humanas," and called the people who lived there "Rayados," meaning "Indians with striped faces." Many pictographs (rock paintings) in this region depict faces with stripes over the nose, a practice characteristic of Plains Indians.

The Spanish did not inhabit the village until 1627, when a Franciscan priest named Fray Alonso de Benavides arrived to introduce the Christian religion. Soon thereafter Fray Francisco Letrado became the first resident priest at Las Humanas. With Indians as laborers, Fray Letrado quickly began constructing the first permanent church. But within two years he requested a transfer to serve in a more remote area. The next resident priest, Fray Diego de Santander, did not arrive until 1659. In the interim, Las Humanas became a visita or preaching station serviced by Abo, located 25 miles to the north. Frequently, the Abó priest and choir traveled seven hours to Las Humanas to lead mass and tend to the religious needs of the converted Christians.

At first, contact with Spanish priests did not dramatically alter the daily lives of the people of Gran Quivira. For the most part, residents continued their farming, hunting, and trading. The Puebloans accepted the Christian God as one of the many gods they worshiped. In return for religious instruction and military protection, the Spanish expected the Indians to help build and maintain the missions and work in the fields. Paying this tribute did not seem too difficult for the Puebloans as long as times remained good, but deepening cultural conflicts and environmental hardships were soon to change this. In the early 1660s, Spanish priests, intent on forcing the Puebloans to worship only one God, tried to suppress Puebloan religious rituals by destroying ceremonial objects and burning the sacred kivas. In response, the Puebloans, who considered their rituals essential to bring rain and plentiful harvests, moved their ceremonies to an above ground location out of the priests' view. By the mid-1660s, Gran Quivira's population had dropped from 3,000 to 1,000. Many inhabitants died of smallpox and other diseases carried by Europeans to the New World. Many more villagers perished during a severe, four-year drought that destroyed crops. Stored foods vanished quickly. The Apache, also starving, began to raid the village to find food.

During the drought, Fray Santander organized the Pueblo Indians and began to construct a large missionary complex similar in plan to most other New Mexican missions of the period. He apparently succeeded at having the Indian laborers complete the convento (the rooms used for housing the priests), but he and his successor could not finish the church before the village became deserted. In 1669 Fray Juan Bernal described the situation:

One of these calamities is that the whole land is at war with the widespread nation of the Apache Indians, who kill all the Christian Indians they can find. No road is safe; everyone travels at the risk of his life; for the heathen traverse them all; being courageous and brave. They hurl themselves at danger like people who know no God nor that there is any hell.

The second misfortune is that for three years no crop has been harvested. Last year, 1668, a great many Indians perished of hunger, lying dead along the roads, in the ravines, and in their hovels. There were pueblos, like Las Humanas, where more than four hundred and fifty died of hunger. The same calamity still prevails, for, because there is no money, there is not a fanege of maize or wheat in all the kingdom. As a result the Spaniards, men as well as women, have sustained themselves for two years on the cowhides they have in their houses to sit on. They roast them and eat them. And the greatest woe of all is that they can no longer find a bit of leather to eat.¹

Hunger finally drove both the Pueblo Indians and the Spaniards from the area. Las Humanas was one of the first villages to be abandoned. Early archaeologists found the mass burial of the 450 victims of starvation described by Juan Bernal. The surviving Indians had gone to live with cultural relatives in other pueblos. In 1680, the Puebloans north of the Salinas Province, in an uncharacteristic show of unity, revolted and expelled the Spaniards from New Mexico. In the general exodus of Indians and Spaniards, the survivors of Las Humanas and other pueblos moved south to the area of El Paso, Texas. Absorbed by Indian communities there, they became the only linguistic group among the Pueblo Indians during the historic period to lose their language and their homeland. Today we know of them mainly from written reports of the Spaniards, from what archaeologists can piece together from evidence uncovered from the ancient village, and from the remembered stories of their scattered kin.

The pueblo of Las Humanas did not receive its current name until after it had been abandoned. In 1540, explorer Coronado had unsuccessfully sought the fabled land of "Quivira" on the Great Plains. The name "Gran Quivira" became fixed in New Mexican folklore as the place where a fortune could be found. No one knows why the ruins of Las Humanas began to be called Gran Quivira, however, because no treasure existed there.

Reading 2 was compiled from "Gran Quivira," a trail guide prepared by the Southwest Parks and Monuments Association, 2nd edition, 1994; Dan Murphy, Salinas Pueblo Missions (Tucson, Ariz.: Southwest Parks and Monuments Association, 1993): and the text of an exhibit at the Gran Quivira Museum, Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument, prepared on September 25, 1985.

¹As cited in Charles Wilson Hackett, ed., "Historical Documents Relating to New Mexico, Nuevo Vizcaya and Approaches Thereto, to 1773," Carnegie Institution of Washington Publication No. 330, Vol. 3 (Washington, DC: 1937).


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