Pueblo Revolt at ASECS

Contributed by Ryan Wheeler

At this year’s American Society for Eighteenth Century Studies (ASECS) conference, I had the opportunity to participate in the roundtable Teaching the Global Eighteenth Century. Phillips Academy instructor in history and social sciences Natalya Baldyga and I presented Assimilation, Acculturation, Catachresis, and Syncretism: Employing Archaeology to Foreground Indigenous Resistance in the Spanish Southwest, sharing our experiences teaching the Pueblo Revolt of 1680 to History 200 classes at the Academy.

Contemporary Indigenous artist Jason Garcia’s take on the Pueblo Revolt combines traditional materials and methods with graphic designs depicting Po’Pay, the architect of the revolt, as a comic book superhero. These two pieces are in the collection of the Robert S. Peabody Institute of Archaeology–you can see the vessel on the right in the inaugural exhibition of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Latino.

If you are not familiar with the Pueblo Revolt, it is a pivotal moment in the history of the Southwest and the modern descendants of those who fought Spanish colonization at the end of the seventeenth century. Our abstract has a little more information on the Revolt and our approach:

Using the case study of the Pueblo Revolt of 1680, our presentation illustrates how archaeological artifacts can be employed to unsettle and decenter colonial narratives by refocusing the North American story of the early eighteenth century on Indigenous peoples of the Spanish Southwest. Too often, Anglophone histories associate the long eighteenth century in the Americas with English colonialism in general, and with the American Revolution in particular. We ask students to consider instead the “first American Revolution,” in which the Pueblo Peoples, led by the Tewa religious leader Po’pay, confronted missionaries and soldiers in the Spanish borderlands of what is now New Mexico. In our classes, students explore both artifacts from the Pueblo Revolt and contemporary Puebloan artistic responses to the historical event, foregrounding Indigenous resistance and survival over tales of erasure and domination. This approach both reorientates students’ understanding of colonial North American history towards wider global narratives of European expansion, and, perhaps more importantly, introduces students to multiple ways that Indigenous peoples adapted to, resisted, and overcame the efforts to erase their cultural identities and physical existence.

Drs. Wheeler and Baldyga also celebrated their anniversary during the conference.

The Peabody Institute has long offered various versions of a Pueblo Revolt lesson, but the current iteration has greatly benefitted from Dr. Baldyga’s experience and training. Together we’ve developed the lesson, typically delivered in the world history survey course for tenth grade, providing students with anthropological concepts, like assimilation and catachresis, that they can use in other settings, as well as foregrounding contemporary Indigenous perspectives and objects directly related to the Revolt. Conversations with other participants in the workshop were productive, especially in their pedagogical approach to topics like the production of sugar.

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