Lesson Plan

The Blame Game - Pima (O'odham) Rebellion of 1751

black and white historic map with hand drawn mountains

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Grade Level:
High School: Ninth Grade through Twelfth Grade
Social Studies
Lesson Duration:
60 Minutes
Common Core Standards:
9-10.RH.1, 9-10.RH.4, 9-10.RH.6, 9-10.RH.8, 9-10.RH.9, 9-10.RH.10, 11-12.RH.1, 11-12.RH.6, 11-12.RH.8, 11-12.RH.9, 11-12.RH.10
State Standards:
Strand 1: American History, Concept 1:  Research Skills for History
PO 1, PO 4, PO 5
Strand 1: American History, Concept 3: Exploration and Colonization
PO 1
Additional Standards:
AP US History Key Concepts
Thinking Skills:
Understanding: Understand the main idea of material heard, viewed, or read. Interpret or summarize the ideas in own words. Analyzing: Break down a concept or idea into parts and show the relationships among the parts. Creating: Bring together parts (elements, compounds) of knowledge to form a whole and build relationships for NEW situations. Evaluating: Make informed judgements about the value of ideas or materials. Use standards and criteria to support opinions and views.


“What caused the Upper Pima (O’odham) Rebellion?” Students will encounter various answers to the essential question through the close reading and study of several primary and secondary sources. Students will have the opportunity to understand the impact of the Spanish mission system on native peoples and to investigate some of the causes of the rebellion.


Be sure to read the documents before teaching the lesson. The documents are a mixture of secondary sources (Documents A-C) and primary sources (Documents D-E) and can be presented in a variety of ways, of which this lesson is but one of many. The purpose of this lesson is to teach close reading skills and to structure a hypothesis answering an essential question.

The rebellion was widespread, encompassing the region the Spanish called the Pimería Alta (modern Arizona, USA and Sonora, Mexico), but was quickly suppressed by Spanish soldiers. Afterwards, incidents of violence did not abate, but continued for several years afterwards.

Regarding the rebellion’s relationship with Tumacácori NHP-- the rebellion caused the Jesuit missionaries to relocate their mission to a more defensible position (the present location on the western side of the Santa Cruz river), the mission at Guevavi was temporarily abandoned as the priest and his acolytes fled, and it was later vandalized by O’odham rebels. Though difficult to prove, the smoke damage to the statue of San Cayetano (on display in the visitor center’s museum) is believed to have been caused during the rebellion. 

Useful background information regarding the causes, duration, and outcome of the rebellion can be found in the following sources:

  1. Landscapes of Fraud by Thomas Sheridan, pages 46-54
  2. Mission of Sorrows by John L. Kessell, pages 102-119
  3. Pedro de la Cruz, alias “Chihuahua” by Don Garate, https://www.nps.gov/tuma/learn/historyculture/pedro-chihuahua.htm

Documents A-C are secondary sources, D and E are translated primary sources. Additional original Spanish documents with transcriptions are available with a ranger-led classroom program.


Print copies of the primary sources and secondary sources for individual students, or for small groups; print copies of the student hypothesis worksheet; download the Hook and Timeline to project onscreen. 


This slideshow introduces the background of the events central to the essential question of the lesson; provides context for the lesson.

Download Hook and Timeline slides

Provides answers to essential question.

Download Document A, “Prosperity at a Price”

Provides answers to the essential question.

Download Document B, “The Pima Uprising of 1751”

Provides answers to the essential question.

Download Document C, “Luis Oacpicagigua and the 1751 Upper Pima Rebellion”

Provides answers to the essential question

Download Document D, “Testimony of Ignacio Romero”

Provides answers to the essential question

Download Document E, “Santiago, Native Mador”

Lesson Hook/Preview

Depending on the background and experience of students, many may be familiar with the tumultuous and evolving relationships between Spaniards, Indians and Mestizos during the colonial period of American history.

The park film, produced in 1974, provides an excellent starting point in discussions about mission life. https://www.nps.gov/tuma/learn/photosmultimedia/videos.htm

The slides provided in the Hook and Timeline can be used as a comparative tool and as an introduction to remnants of the colonial era.

This lesson may also precede or follow a field trip to Tumacácori National Historical Park. Sites like the Guevavi mission, although normally closed to the public, may be accessible with a ranger guide. For more info about transportation subsidies and field trip options, contact the Education Ranger at 520-377-5064.

For APUSH, the Pima Rebellion serves as a good example of the WOR 1.0 and CUL 4.0 thematic learning objectives. Parallels to the Pueblo Revolt serve as good opportunity for comparative analysis.


Step One: Project the first slide in the Powerpoint and ask students to think-pair-share three things they think the pictures have in common. Show the students the timeline and conduct a brief lecture regarding the context of the rebellion. The last slide is a primary source map of the region. You may want to make copies or leave it on the projection screen during the duration of the lesson.

Step Two: distribute copies of hypothesis worksheet and ask students to write their initial hypothesis based on the timeline and/or what they already know; ask students to share their initial hypothesis.

Step Three: distribute copies of Document A and B, ask students to read the documents (as individuals or in small groups) and to fill in the appropriate boxes for Round 1.

Step Four: distribute copies of Document C, ask students to read and complete Round 2; ask students to share any changes made to their hypothesis; at this point students will begin to see disagreement between the documents and it would be prudent to have a discussion about document sourcing. Tumacácori NHP’s website has a useful lesson plan that provides support for evaluating sources.

Step Five: distribute copies of Document D and E, ask students to read and complete Round Three.

Step Six: ask students to share final hypotheses.

Step Seven: discuss the following questions as a class--What caused the rebellion? Whose hypothesis changed across Rounds? Which documents corroborate each other? How and why did the hypothesis change? Which documents were most convincing and why? 


Spanish Terms:   

Pimería Alta - geographic term used to describe the area largely inhabited by the Pima Indians and bounded by the Gila River in the North and the Altar and Magdalena Rivers in the South; modern southern Arizona and northern Sonora, Mexico

Gente de Razón - archaic term used by the Spanish to describe converted Indians and Mestizos

English terms:

Jesuit - A European member of the Catholic Society of Jesus, a religious order of missionaries operating in Spanish and French colonies

Hypothesis - a proposition assumed as a premise in an argument

Context - the set of circumstances or facts that surround a particular event,situation, etc.

Corroboration - to make more certain; confirm

--Additional vocabulary lists are provided at the end of each document

Assessment Materials

Hypothesis Worksheet

Graphic organizer and final assessment of the lesson

graphic organizer and assessment tool

Download Assessment

Rubric/Answer Key

Hypothesis Worksheet

Evaluates students final hypotheses




In their final hypothesis the student explains more than three causes for the Pima Rebellion; student supports their hypothesis with evidence by directly referring to the documents


In their final hypothesis the student explains two causes for the Pima Rebellion; student supports their hypothesis with evidence by directly referring to the documents


In their final hypothesis the student explains one cause for the Pima Rebellion, but doesn’t support their hypothesis with evidence from the documents

Supports for Struggling Learners

Modify copies of the documents are available for struggling readers. Teacher can pair students who struggle with those who understand the readings; teacher can reduce the number of documents as needed.

Additional Resources

-The Office of Ethnohistorical Research is a great starting point for further research. The office is currently working on an online database documenting the Pima Rebellion, among other projects regarding the peoples of southwestern Arizona and northern Mexico.

-Yale Indian Papers Project is a an electronic database of primary sources regarding Native American history

Contact Information

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Last updated: October 19, 2016