Pueblo Indians Capture Santa Fe from the Spanish

The Spaniards were to report later that they fought 2,500 Pueblo warriors.

Lacking firepower, the warriors blocked the stream coming into Casa Reales. Soon the Spaniards began to lose their animals from thirst and hunger. Governor Otermin called a meeting, and it was decided they would try to fight their way out rather than die of thirst and hunger. After executing 47 warriors captured on August 21, the Spaniards broke the siege and left Santa Fe. They would not stop their southward flight until they reached the area that today is El Paso, Texas. The sword and the cross were gone. It was the first successful revolt by Natives against the Europeans, and would remain one of the few ever in the Americas.

On 10 August 1680, a mostly united Pueblo front launched a surprise attack, forcing the colony of nearly two thousand Spaniards and Indian converts to retreat to the southern most mission of Guadalupe del Paso, present-day Ciudad Juárez in Mexico. Pueblo runners delivered knotted cords to each village. These cords worked as calendars, with each knot representing the number of days until the uprising. The last knot was supposed to be untied on 11 August, but Spanish leaders learned of Pueblo plans when they captured two messengers on 9 August. Despite the uncovering of the plot, the Pueblos still managed to catch the Spanish off guard and laid siege on the capital of Santa Fe, where many Spaniards had fled. Gov. Antonio de Otermín and settlers held out in the city until 21 September, when the Pueblos allowed the group to retreat south. During the revolt, Spanish records estimate that more than four hundred Spanish settlers had been killed, and twenty-one Franciscans had been murdered. Significant numbers of Pueblos died during the uprising as well.

Following his release, Popé, along with a number of other Pueblo leaders, planned and orchestrated the Pueblo Revolt. He plotted the revolt from Taos, New Mexico. Popé dispatched runners to all the Pueblos carrying knotted cords, the knots signifying the number of days remaining until the appointed day. Each morning the Pueblo leadership was to untie one knot from the cord, and when the last knot was untied, that would be the signal for them to rise against the Spaniards in unison.

The day for the attack had been fixed for August 11, 1680, but the Spaniards learned of the revolt after capturing two Tesuque Pueblo youths entrusted with carrying the message to the pueblos. Popé then ordered the execution of the plot on August 10, before the uprising could be put down.

The attack was commenced by the Taos, Picuris, and Tewa Indians in their respective pueblos. They killed twenty-one of the province's forty Franciscans, and three hundred and eighty Spaniards, including men, women, and children. Spanish settlers fled to Santa Fe, the only Spanish city, and Isleta Pueblo, one of the few Pueblos that did not participate in the rebellion.

Believing themselves the only survivors, the refugees at Isleta left for El Paso del Norte on September 15. Meanwhile Popé's insurgents besieged Santa Fe, surrounding the city and cutting off its water supply. New Mexico Governor Antonio de Otermín, barricaded in the Governor’s Palace, called for a general retreat. On August 21 the remaining 3,000 Spanish settlers streamed out of the capital city and headed for El Paso del Norte. The Pueblo Indians acquired horses from the Spanish, thus allowing the further spread of horses to the Plains tribes.