DocumentCitationsKeywordsRelated Material

“The Spanish Siege at Acoma”

by James Paytiamo

James Paytiamo was born at Acoma Pueblo in the mid-1800s. In 1932 he wrote about his life at Acoma in Flaming Arrow’s People By an Acoma Indian.

~ ~ ~ ~

Acoma Church and Pueblo“Acoma Church and Pueblo,” Unidentified (Photographer)

On the top of the cliff to the south is the old Spanish church which the Spanish fathers forced my people to build by carrying the adobe dirt from the valley below in their shawls, on their backs, up that steep climb. The walls of the church are seven feet thick, and the church is immense, with two towers, and in front is a courtyard walled with rocks and filled in with dirt, which was also carried up on the backs of my people. I am told by them that at the time this church was being built there was great famine at Acoma and that the people, when their regular food was gone, first ate cactus, then chewed their buckskins, and finally ate each other.

If you go to the southwest side of the Acoma mesa you can still see under the overhanging bluff the smoke-stains from the Spanish cannon, made when the conquistadores came and took my people’s land away from them and tried to break down the rock mesa with their cannon, and there is still the remains of the little fort which my people built on the southwest top, with little windows from which they shot their arrows.

“They would also gather the bees from their little mud cells in the rocks and place them in pottery jars and throw them down into the camp.”

My people also tell me that the Spaniards finally laid siege to the Acoma village. The water holes on top of the mesa, which were usually filled with enough rainwater to supply the village, evaporated in the drought. The Acomas then sent their swiftest runners at night down a path so narrow and steep that it is hard to believe when you look at it that human beings could cling to it. And these runners would run about eight miles to the springs and bring back the water weeds which we know as cat-tails. They would climb back up the path and in the morning the Acomas would throw these dripping weeds down into the Spaniards' camp at the base of the mesa to make them think they still had plenty of water. They would also gather the bees from their little mud cells in the rocks and place them in pottery jars and throw them down into the camp. The jars would break, and the bees would sting the Spaniards.