The Jemez mission of Guisewa. Photo by Michael Wilcox

The widely held, history-book narrative of Native peoples in America is one of conquest and devastation, of Indigenous cultures long ago wiped out by acculturation, violence and disease. Michael Wilcox, author of The Pueblo Revolt and the Mythology of Conquest, finds that this narrative is a myth, and needs to be reexamined.

In fact, Native peoples repeatedly resisted conquest, in revolts that are documented in Spanish records and in Indigenous oral traditions, but omitted from history books. The Spanish accounts reveal the extent of colonial brutality, as well as how ideology served to rationalize and quiet moral conflict about their actions. And far from vanishing, Native cultures still exist today. “The presence of four and a half million Native Americans in the United States is a complete mystery to most people. There is no story that explains what they are still doing here”, said Wilcox, quoted in the Stanford Report. Rather than trying to explain the supposed disappearance of Native cultures, Wilcox asks the more interesting question of how to understand their continued presence, and how to reconcile the European conquest narrative with the Native American narrative of resistance.

Wilcox explores one of the most successful Indigenous revolts in America, the Pueblo Revolt of 1680, when Pueblo leaders expelled Spanish colonists from New Mexico in an organized attack. Dispelling the myth that Native Americans swiftly succumbed to acculturation and disease brought by Europeans, Wilcox takes an indigenous approach that explains both the continued presence of Native Americans and instances of resistance like the Pueblo Revolt. He shows how an indigenous archaeology can bridge the gap between the study of Native American cultures and the living members of those cultures. In this video from Stanford University, Wilcox discusses the Pueblo Revolt and its implications for today.