25 September 2005

Po'pay Takes His Place In U.S. Capitol...

Most people do not realize that Po'pay was the first American Revolutionary...


Pueblo Leader's Statue Installed At U.S. Capitol
September 23, 2005

WASHINGTON (AP) - The statue of a pueblo leader who led a revolt against the Spanish in 1680 that changed the way the settlers treated Indians has become the 100th and final work added to the U.S. Capitol National Statuary Hall.

In a ceremony that blended patriotic music and politics with tribal dancing and prayer, New Mexico's congressional delegation dedicated the statue of Po'pay on Thursday, calling him the leader of "the first American revolution."

"Those early days were hard, and like it or not, often very brutal," Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., said. "The Po'pay-led insurrection against the Spanish conquerors was at its core a basic human and American need to challenge oppressors. This statue represents not only the history of a single man but a legacy that helped ensure the survival of Pueblo and American Indian culture in New Mexico."

The statue, by Jemez Pueblo sculptor Cliff Fragua, was formally accepted by House and Senate leaders at the dedication. Although it is not the first statute of an American Indian _ others include Sakakawea and Cherokee leader Sequoyah _ it is the first by a native artist.

Each state was given a chance to dedicate two statues to stand in the National Statuary Hall. Po'pay's is the last added to the collection. New Mexico's other statue, of the late Sen. Dennis Chavez, was installed in 1966.

In 1675, Po'pay _ sometimes spelled Pope _ was one of 47 religious leaders imprisoned, hanged and tortured by the Spanish. Po'pay survived, and in 1680, joined other pueblo leaders in a bloody rebellion that drove the Spanish from the area for 12 years.

When they returned, the Spanish changed their approach to the Indians, who were mostly able to keep their religion, land and languages.

Po'pay was chosen for New Mexico's second statue by state lawmakers after a bitter debate. Critics argued he was a radical, a dictator and a murderer.

But Thursday, there was no hint of the controversy.

"The legacy of Po'pay is still with us today and is part of what makes New Mexico so different and so special," said Rep. Heather Wilson, R-N.M. "We enjoy a blending of cultures respectful of each other unlike anywhere else in America."

The 7-foot-tall statue of Po'pay _ Tewa for "Ripe Pumpkin" _ shows the religious leader wearing a cloak draped over his bare chest and holding a knotted rope by which the pueblo rebels counted the days until their revolt.

His eyes look forward with an almost wistful expression.

The ceremony was held in the Capitol Rotunda, a round room lined with a frieze and murals depicting the Europeans landing in America and the founding of the United States. Po'pay's statue was unveiled next to "The Landing of Columbus."

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., noted that the last depiction of American Indians in the room shows them being conquered by settlers.

"Too often that is the way they were treated in history," he said. But Po'pay's statue is a "symbol of the desire of all people everywhere to live in freedom," he said.

Indian leaders said the statue was an "overdue addition" to the hall.

"I am hopeful it will be instrumental in reminding everyone who visits here that Native Americans had a tremendous influence in shaping this country," said Jackie Johnson, National Congress of American Indians executive director.

Dozens of members of New Mexico pueblos attended the dedication. It closed with a ceremonial "Winter Buffalo Dance." Three dancers _ two in buffalo headgear decorated with feathers _ offered blessings and thanks in time to a drumbeat.

Eveli Abeyta, 16, and Naomi Cata, 17, left the ceremony proud of their pueblo heritage symbolized by Po'pay.

"Our strong beliefs and traditions and languages have brought us a long way," said Abeyta of the Santo Domingo Pueblo. "They have brightened the world and shown who we truly are."


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