Indian Missions of New Mexico and Arizona
The Spanish brought Christianity to the South-West in the 16th century, but their efforts were made at the expense of several hundred priests being killed by hostiles.
Throughout the reading of these histories written by the Spanish, it seems that most Indians, man, women and child, respected the Spanish Holy Men, except that Indian Medicine Men, considering the Priests as competitors for the affections of the people that belonged to them, therefore the result of many cases of hostile Medicine Men.
As all of this region was colonized from Spain, the entire mission work until a very recent period was conducted by the Catholics and through priests of the Franciscan order.
The earliest exploration of the territory west of the Rio Grande was made by the Franciscan friar, Marcos de Niza, in 1539, and it was through his representations that the famous exploration of Coronado was undertaken a year later.
Five Franciscans accompanied the army, and on the return of the expedition in 1542 three of these volunteered to remain behind for the conversion of the savages.
Fray Luis de Escalona, or Descalona, chose Cicuye (Pecos) for his labors. Fray Juan de Padilla, with a few companions and a herd of sheep and mules, pushed on to distant Quivira, somewhere on the plains of Kansas. Fray Juan de la Cruz was at Tiguex, Coronado's winter quarters, properly Puaray on the Rio Grande, near the present Bernalillo, New Mexico.
On arriving at Pecos Fray Luis sent back the message
that while the tribe was friendly the
medicine-men were hostile and would probably cause his death. So it
apparently proved, for nothing more was ever heard of his fate or of
that of Fray Juan de la Cruz at Tiguex. Of Fray Juan de Padilla it
was learned years afterward that he had been killed by the Quivira
people for attempting to carry his ministrations to another tribe
with which they were at war.
In 1630 there were some 50 priests serving more than
Missionaries were killed in outlying districts
and several pueblos were wiped out by the wild tribes, until in
1675, after the murder of several missionaries and civilians and
the execution or other punishment of the principals concerned,
the Pueblo chiefs, led by Popa of San Juan, sent to the
governor a message declaring that they would kill all the Spaniards
and flee to the mountains before they would permit their medicine-men
to be harmed. Conditions rapidly grew worse, until it was evident
that a general conspiracy was on foot and an appeal was sent to
Mexico by the governor for reinforcements. Before help could arrive,
however, the storm broke, on August 10, 1680, the historic Pueblo
revolt, organized and led by Popa.
"It was the
plan of the New Mexicans to utterly exterminate the Spaniards; and in
the massacre none were spared, neither soldier, priest, or
settler, personal friend or foe, young or old, man or woman except
that a few beautiful women and girls were kept as
was the entire evacuation of New Mexico by the Spaniards until its
re-conquest by Vargas in 1692-94, when most of the missions were
reestablished. The Pueblo spirit was not crushed, however, and in the
summer of 1696 there was another outbreak by five tribes, resulting
in the death of five missionaries, besides other Spaniards. The
rising was soon subdued, except among the Hopi, who deferred
submission until 1700, but only one of their seven or eight towns,
Awatobi, would consent to receive missionaries again. For the favor
thus shown to Christians the other Hopi combined forces and utterly
destroyed Awatobi and killed many of its people before the close of
the year. The Hopi did not again become a mission tribe, but in 1742
more than 440 Tigua, who had fled to the Hopi at the time of the
great revolt, were brought back and distributed among the missions of
the Rio Grande until they could be resettled in a new town of their
By this time the territory had been organized as a bishopric, and with the increase of the Spanish population the relative importance of the mission work declined. In 1780-81 an epidemic of smallpox carried off so many of the Christian Indians that by order of the governor the survivors were the next year concentrated into 20 missions, the other stations being discontinued.
Indians assimilated with the Spanish population the missions
gradually took on the character of ordinary
Mennonites, represented by Rev. H. R. Voth, had begun a
mission never flourished. In 1750 the tribes revolted and the
missions were plundered, most of the missionaries escaping, and by the
time peace was restored the contest had begun
was at once filled by the Franciscans, but the work languished and
steadily declined under the attacks from the wild tribes.
About 1780 Guevavi was abandoned in onsequence of Apache raids, and
Tumacacori, in the same general region, was made mission headquarters. The
work came to an end by decree of the revolutionary government in 1828,
shortly after the transfer of authority from Spain to Mexico.