||Oņate, Juan de, 1549?-1624
||True Account of the Expedition of Oņate toward the East
||Bolton, Herbert Eugene (editor). Spanish Exploration in the Southwest, 1542-1706. (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1916). Pages 250-267.
||20 / 0
Juan de Oñate (1549?-1624) was the son of wealthy conquistador
and miner Cristóbal de Oñate. After the expeditions
of Rodríguez and Espejo (see AJ-004 to AJ-008), interest in the
mineral wealth of New Mexico convinced the Spanish viceroy to license
further expeditions. Espejo applied for a license, proposing a four-hundred-man
army to conquer and settle New Mexico, as did several other adventurers
and investors. The bidding process was long and drawn out, and the
lure of New Mexico was so strong that some parties embarked for
the north without permission. In 1593, Francisco Leyva de Bonilla
and Antonio Gutiérrez de Humaña led one such unauthorized
expedition into New Mexico. They spent a year among the pueblos
and journeyed east into Quivira as far as the Platte River in Kansas
before Humaña murdered Leyva, and all but one survivor were
killed by Indians (see AJ-103).
Finally in 1595, the Spanish viceroy named Juan de Oñate
to be the governor of New Mexico, adelantado and captain-general
of the new province. Oñate was the son of Cristóbal
de Oñate, the conqueror of Nueva Galicia where he operated
mines, and one of the founders of Zacatecas. His wife was the granddaughter
of the famous conquistador Hernando Cortez and the great-granddaughter
of the Aztec leader Montezuma.
Oņates Expeditions, 1598-1604
Although rivals impeded planning for the governors great expedition,
Oņate recruited colonists by promising them privileges and exemptions.
In the spring of 1596, four-hundred settlers, soldiers, their families,
and servants assembled eighty-three carts and wagons for the trip
north with seven-thousand head of livestock. After splitting up
to traverse the great sand dunes south of El Paso, Oņate took formal
possession of the kingdoms and provinces of New Mexico for King
Philip II of Spain on April 30, 1596. Oņate took a party of sixty
men north to subdue the pueblos. He established his first headquarters
at the Caypa pueblo, which he renamed San Juan, on August 18, 1596.
While a church was being built, Oņate met with chiefs of the surrounding
pueblos and convened a general assembly of all the chiefs and representatives
on September 9, 1596. At that convention the province of New Mexico
was formally established.
Next Oņate turned his attention to exploit other nearby lands.
He took sixty men to the Pecos River to hunt buffalo. He visited
salt mines near the Jumano and Zuni pueblos. He sent Captain Marcos
Farfán to explore Arizona near Moqui, finding abundant silver veins.
On one such expedition, in November 1598, Juan de Zaldívar was killed
at Acoma by the Hopi. Oņate retaliated by subduing Acoma in two
days of hand-to-hand fighting in which the Indians were punished
by fire and bloodshed, and the pueblo was completely laid waste
and burned. In 1601, Oņate explored the route taken by Humaņa to
the Platte River and Kansas eight years earlier. In 1604 he followed
a route to the Gulf of California and retraced the expeditions made
by Coronado, Espejo, and Humaņa during the previous decades.
On June 23, 1601, Don Juan de Oņate and eighty to one-hundred men
set out to explore the lands northeast of New Mexico into Texas,
Oklahoma, and Kansas. They based their journey on the route taken
by Humaņa and Leyva, guided by Jusepe, an Indian who accompanied
Humaņa and survived the massacre of that party (see AJ-103). Loaded
with a hundred carts of supplies, they passed through the Galisteo
Pass and crossed the Pecos and the Galinas Rivers. The first tribe
they met was the Apache, with whom they established peaceful contact.
Oņate describes the abundant wild fruits and plentiful fish in the
Canadian River valley, which they followed into lands in present-day
San Miguel County, Texas. Here they encountered large herds of bison
and elk. Their trek led along the sand dunes of the Canadian River
near Antelope Hills, east of the Texas Panhandle, and toward the
modern-day city of Wichita, Kansas.
After the Apache, Oņate encountered a tribe they called the Escanjaques,
who at first seemed prepared to battle the Spaniards. Oņate, a priest,
and thirty soldiers made peace with the tribe, which numbered more
than five-thousand. The Escanjaques, at war with another nearby
tribe, were visiting the region during their summer bison hunt.
In the belief that Oņates company was seeking revenge for the deaths
of Leyva and Humaņa, they offered to help Oņate to attack their
enemies. With his Indian escort, Oņate traveled along the Arkansas
River to the neighboring village of the Wichita. Instead of attacking
them, Oņate sought peace with the Wichita but the Escanjaques began
to burn down some of their huts until Oņate forbade them. Oņate
recounted that the Wichita cultivated large fields of maize and
gourds, and also used the abundant buffalo for meat and hides, suitable
Oņate decided that the party had achieved its goal of finding good
land for settlement and made plans to return to New Mexico. However,
the Wichita warned him that the Escanjagues planned to ambush the
Spanish on their return, despite their initial friendliness. Oņates
expedition was unable to avoid the Escanjaques on the return trip
as his route passed through the highly-populated heart of their
territory. The attack began when fifteen-hundred Escanjaques ignored
Oņates peaceful greeting. He ordered his party to defend itself
and the battle lasted until nightfall. Though the Spanish only suffered
light injuries and killed hundreds of Indians, the Escanjaques showed
no desire to retreat. At nightfall, the Spanish retreated taking
a few young Indian boys to instruct in the Roman Catholic faith,
and released some women they held. The Spanish were able to return
to New Mexico without further attack, arriving on November 24, 1601.
Other Internet and Reference Sources Other
For more information on Oņate, see the "Handbook of Texas Online" to read the
biography and see more details about the expedition.
The standard biography is Marc Simmons, The Last
Conquistador: Juan de Oņate and the Settling of the Far
Southwest (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1991). Also
see George Hammonds (ed.) Don Juan de Oņate and the
Founding of New Mexico (Santa Fe: El Palacio Press, 1927).
A wide selection of primary documents are printed in George
P. Hammond and Agapito Rey, eds., Don Juan de Oņate:
Colonizer of New Mexico, 1595-1628 (Albuquerque: University
of New Mexico Press, 1953).