Given by New Mexico in 2005
U.S. Capitol Visitor Center
Po’Pay was born around 1630 in the San Juan Pueblo, in what is now the state of New Mexico; his given name, Popyn, means “ripe squash” in the Tewa language. As an adult he became a religious leader and was responsible for healing as well as for his people’s spiritual life. He also knew of his people’s suffering under Spanish settlers, who forced them to provide labor and food to support the Spanish community. The Spaniards also pressured them to give up their religion and way of life and to adopt Christianity—those found practicing their religion were tortured and sometimes executed.
In 1675, Po’pay and 46 other Pueblo leaders were convicted of sorcery; he was among those flogged, while others were executed. In 1680 Po’pay organized the Pueblo Revolt against the Spanish. According to legend, 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 runners, and the pueblos were quickly notified to accelerate the revolt. The attacks began on August 10, two days before the last knot would have been untied. The Spaniards took refuge at Santa Fe; the besieging Indians cut off their water supply but soon permitted them to leave the area. The Pueblo Revolt helped to ensure the survival of the Pueblo culture and shaped the history of the American Southwest.