By: Manuel F. Pino, Acoma Pueblo

The arrival of Christopher Colon (Columbus) the Italian sailing for the Monarchy of Spain in 1492, was the beginning of a history of genocide throughout the world Indigenous Peoples will never forget! In the Western Hemisphere the history of Spanish colonization is evident in the genocide imposed on Indigenous Peoples throughout the Americas. In the American Southwest the “entrada” (entrance) in 1538, was inspired by the myth of the Seven Cities of Cibola, speculation of another rich Aztec or Inca kingdom of mineral wealth drove the Spanish colonial expeditions northward in search of these cities where gold lined the streets.

Rio Arriba County staff are taking down the statue of Spanish colonizer Don Juan de Oñate. (SUNfoto by Molly Montgomery)

The second major expedition in 1540, led by Francisco de Coronado was to find the seven cities which led the expedition to Kansas never to find the fabled cities. What the colonial expeditions brought to the Pueblo Nation of New Mexico was systemic spiritual, cultural, social, economic, and political change. Armed with colonial laws like the 1532 Doctrine of Discovery, Spanish colonizers began claiming aboriginal lands and natural resources in the name of the King of Spain. Land grants were presented to Pueblo leaders from the Spanish monarchy in lands Pueblo people had lived on for thousands of years before the Spanish entrada.

In 1598, my people of Acoma Pueblo encountered the Onate expedition which had formally taken possession of New Mexico on July 11, 1598, in the area of Juarez, Mexico. In his trek northward Onate established headquarters near San Juan Pueblo (now changed to the aboriginal Pueblo name of Ohkay Owingeh) on the Rio Grande River which became the first established capital in North America and Onate the first Governor. Pueblos were forced to convert to Catholicism.

To accomplish this goal of conversion at Acoma in December 1598, Onate sent his nephew Juan de Zaldivar, demanding the Acoma people submit to the “Requerimiento” a rite of ceremonial possession to their land and forced conversion to accept Christianity and conquest or expect war and total annihilation. A battle ensued and de Zaldivar and 13 other Spaniards were killed atop the Acoma mesa. On January 21, 1599, Juan’s brother Vicente de Zaldivar led an avenging company of 70 men which attacked Acoma and a battle continued for three days, in the end it is estimated that 600-800 men, women and children were killed. Eighty men were taken prisoner and 500-600 women and children were imprisoned.

Acoma leaders were taken one at a time murdered and pitched over the cliff. A Spanish colonial criminal trial in February 1599, followed the battle at Acoma, at Santo Domingo Pueblo (now changed to its aboriginal name of Kewa Pueblo). The verdict determined that males over the age of 25 were sentenced to have their right foot cut off and 20 years of servitude, males between 12 and 25 and women over the age of 12 also sentenced to 20 years of servitude, more than 60 young girls under the age of 12 were sent to convents in Mexico never to return to Acoma.

For this act of genocide, the Viceroy of New Spain and King Phillip of Spain in 1609, permanently exiled Onate from New Mexico and he was banished from Mexico City for 4 years, Vicente de Zaldivar was also exiled from New Mexico and banished from Mexico City for 8 years.  How many students in history classes across the U.S. have heard this historical account of the glorified Spanish Conquistador?

On April 21, 2007, more than 400 years after the attack on Acoma, the city of El Paso dedicated a 34- foot high, 18-ton bronze sculpture designated to commemorate the Onate and Spanish influence in the Southwest outside the El Paso International Airport which was met with vehement protest. Acoma people continually call for the removal of the statue in El Paso the site where Onate claimed all Indigenous land in the name of Spain.

These examples of institutional racism in our educational curriculum present a biased one-sided view of racial inequality and systemic bigotry in our educational system. How many students in New Mexico have heard the Indigenous historical account of atrocities committed by Columbus, Coronado, Onate, and Father Junipero Serra? The Onate expedition is only one example of the colonial genocide that Pueblo people have had to endure.

In 1680, under the leadership of Ohkay Owingeh, spiritual leader Popay the Pueblo Revolt drove out the Spaniards for twelve years, one of the most monumental Native victories in history, due to the Spaniards trying to totally suppress our spirituality and sacred ceremonies.

Due to the 1680 Revolt our ceremonies remain in our spiritual calendars to this day! The divisiveness in Albuquerque can be resolved with the opportunity to share all sides of history!  At this momentous time in history the Indigenous Environmental Network stands in solidarity with our brothers and sisters throughout Turtle Island protesting the commemoration of the distortion and lies of American history from the perspective of continued colonial dominating control.

The title of the Article “Not My Foot” was a rallying cry in protest against the genocidal statue of Onate that stands today at the El Paso International Airport.

ONATE MUST GO! Manuel Pino is a board member of the Indigenous Environmental Network.


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