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The Diversity of Native America: The Southwest
Digital History ID 638

Author:   Juan de Onate
Date:1599

Annotation: In February 1598, Juan de Onate, a Mexican mine owner, led 130 soldiers, many slaves, eight Franciscan missionaries, and 7,000 cattle north of Mexico into what is now the American Southwest. In this letter, he describes the people he encountered.


Document: The people are as a rule of good disposition, generally of the color of those of New Spain, and almost the same in customs, dress, grinding of meal, food, dances, songs, and in many other respects. This is not true of their languages, which here are numerous and different from those in Mexico. Their religion consists in worshipping of idols, of which they have many; in their temples they worship them in their own way with fire, painted reeds, feathers, and general offerings of almost everything: little animals, birds, vegetables, etc. Their government is one of complete freedom, for although they have some chieftains they obey them badly and in very few matters.

We have seen other nations, such as Querechos or Vaqueros, who live among the Cibola [Pueblo Indians] in tents of tanned hides. The Apaches, some of whom we also saw, are extremely numerous. Although I was told that they lived in rancherias, in recent days I have learned that they live in pueblos the same as the people here.... They are a people that has not yet publicly rendered obedience to his majesty....Because of failure to exercise as much caution as was necessary, my maese de campo and twelve companions were killed at a fortress pueblo named Acoma, which must have contained three thousand Indians more or less. In punishment of their wickedness and treason to his majesty...and as a warning to others, I razed and burned their pueblo....

Source: George P. Hammond and Agapito Rey, eds., Don Juan de Onate: Colonizer of New Mexico, 1595-1628 (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico, 1953), Vol. 1, 480-85.

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