Uprising: Writing About the Only Successful Native American Revolution

Uprising front coverBy Jim Turner

“That day in August, the Pueblo people of the northern Rio Grande and points west exploded in fury, rising up to drive the Spanish military, colonists, and Franciscan missionaries all the way back into New Spain (today’s Mexico). Except, that is, for the four hundred or so colonists and Franciscans whom they slaughtered.”

Uprising, Jake Page

 The first two parts (here and here) of this bio-blog series described author/editor Jake Page’s education and writing career, which varied from science writing for the general reader to Southwest mystery novels. So how did he come to write Uprising: The Pueblo Indians and the First American War for Religious Freedom, a different subject and genre from his usual fare?

Some authors get an idea, start collecting material, completely revise it, let it sit for years, collect more data, get back to it, struggle with it, and finally find a time, method, and approach that is right. Few of these projects ever become finished books, but when they do, the years of planning and effort pay off. In this case, Jake took more than three decades to finish Uprising, and the time and care definitely show in the final outcome.

Jake said the idea for this book started in 1980, when he and his wife Susanne were making one of their many visits to the Hopi mesas. He said that Abbott Sekaquaptewa, then Tribal Chairman of the Hopis, “told us briefly the story of the Pueblo Revolt, which I thought would make a great historical novel. Later we drove to Santa Fe and in one of the hotel bookshops I came across a book called Taos, in fact a historical novel about the Pueblo rebellion. So I gave up on that. But over the next years I kept finding and buying books by historians about the rebellion and one day about four years ago I discovered I had a library on the topic of some seventy books.”

Uprising back cover blurbBorn in Boston, with his schooling and much of his career in the eastern United States, Jake had never heard of this rebellion before he and Susanne began writing about the Four Corners area. After years of research, he realized that this was an important event in American history, a topic that so far only academic historians and Southwest fiction writers had tackled. He noticed that Native Americans were reluctant to talk about this conflict. Not seeing the story he wanted to read in previous works, Jake thought it was time for an outsider like himself to write about the Pueblo Revolt for the general reader from anywhere in the world with no background in the region’s history.

After absorbing all the information, Jake realized that the Hopi and other tribes were involved as well. With help from his Native American friends, Jake figured he could add information that Pueblo leaders had not covered previously.

“In any event,” Jake said, “all these thoughts came together along with the notion that I, as a journalist, could get away with certain additions to the stories that academic historians and Pueblo spokesmen could not afford to make. So, for example, I described in some detail a modern Hopi katsina dance, pointing out that it was probably different in many details from a pueblo dance 300 years ago . . . but not that different. I was encouraged in this approach by Emory Sekaquaptewa, Abbott’s brother and a member of the anthropology department at the University of Arizona.” Jake received new insights into Hopi reactions to the rebellion from Emory, as well as lots of information from Hopi oral history transcripts.

Jake’s journalistic style turned out to be just what this subject needed. This is not your ordinary history book. It reads more like historic fiction, and yet every word has been thoroughly researched. Jake said, “I have tried to unlock the rebellion from a purely western and largely academic audience. It was, after all, the only war Indians fought on this continent that, even briefly, ran the Europeans off their land, and its ramifications stretched far and wide across much of the West.” He wanted to reach a wider general audience.  Reviewers from The Tucson Weekly and the Heard Museum magazine, Earth Song, and several others agree that he achieved his goal admirably.

New Mexico Magazine mastheadOne reviewer said, “I’ve tried to read other books about the Pueblo Revolt, but couldn’t get into them as they were too ponderous or dry. Jake Page’s prose is as good as non-fiction narrative can get, and it flows like a well-paced, humming river.” A New Mexico Magazine reviewer agreed, stating: “Page didn’t write this book for scholars. He seeks a wider popular audience, and the result is a fine work of interpretation and storytelling. It offers a nuanced and compelling perspective on a time and series of events that influenced—and continues to influence—the Southwestern experience.”

So there you have it—the complete but brief biography of Jake Page, author, editor, and lover of all things Southwest. As with many creative people, his life is a road filled with serendipitous detours, leading eventually to many successful labors of love. For those of you with drawers full of notes and shelves full of books to support that idea you had decades ago, take heart, get back to your idea, and write the book you’d want to read.

Jim Turner is an historian, editor, teacher, researcher, and author. He received his masters degree in U.S. history from the University of Arizona and is now an editor for Rio Nuevo Publishers. He writes history articles for various newspapers around the state, and his pictorial history book, “Arizona: Celebrating the Grand Canyon State,” was named  a “Top Pick” for Southwest Books of the Year by the Friends of the Pima County Library. You may reach him at jimturnerhistorian@gmail.com.

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