REVOLTing Art: Understanding the Pueblo Revolt Through Modern Art

Contributed by Lindsay Randall

The Pueblo Revolt was a pivotal moment in the history of the Southwest region of what is now the United States. 

In 1680 the numerous Pueblos unified under the leadership of Po’pay and fought back against the military, religious, and political incursion of the Spanish. This event is the only successful large scale Indigenous revolt against Europeans in North America, and as such is covered in History 201 at Phillips Academy.

While there are numerous accounts of the Revolt from a Spanish perspective, many academics agree that there are no known comparable accounts of the event from the perspective of the Pueblos. 

But what are “comparable” sources anyway? Because there are Indigenous accounts from that time period and contemporaneous to the known Spanish accounts – They are just in the form of oral traditions. Unfortunately, oral traditions have historically not been treated as the same as written or archaeological evidence.  

I wanted to change how our students interacted with material about the Pueblo Revolt and so I created a new lesson that gave more weight to the Pueblo experience, in their own words. And thankfully, Dr. Marisela Ramos, History Department Head was more than happy to let me use her classes to experiment and refine my lesson.

Jason Garcia ceramic in the Peabody’s collection

Artist Jason Garcia (Tewa name: Okuu Pin) has created numerous and stunning pieces related to the Pueblo Revolt using traditional comic book imagery, including a ceramic pot that is in the Peabody’s collection. He has also crafted a multi piece series of art titled Tewa Tales of Suspense! which continues his efforts to provide a counterpoint to the common Spanish-dominant narrative of the Pueblo Revolt. 

Using a set of pictures from the expansive series, I crafted a lesson which engages students in close reading of the visual images to understanding this particular event in history. 

After working in groups and spending time exploring the details of a single picture, students report back to the whole class about what information their picture is conveying, before working collaboratively to place all the images in chronological order. As the class orders the images, we discuss how the narrative of each single picture contributes to our understanding of the larger story of the Pueblo Revolt.

Then we look at quotes taken from a letter by Governor Don Antonio de Otermin and students attempt to match the quotes to the corresponding image.

We end the class with a discussion regarding the differences in how a single event is portrayed depending on the viewpoint and medium (visual narrative vs. written account) as well as why it is important that oral traditions be given the same authority as written documents. 

This lesson has been an exciting way to engage students with the history of the Pueblo Revolt through comic book style art and I look forward to finding ways to refine and expand the activity.

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