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A Harvest of Reluctant Souls

'A Harvest of Reluctant Souls'

By Fray Alonso de Benavides


Translated by Baker H. Morrow


The history of the New Mexico area is the longest in the US - the first European to come through the area was Cabeza De Vaca sometime after 1527 in his eight year journey from a Florida Coast shipwreck to Sinaloa. The Puebloan cities were the source for the legend of the 'Seven Cities of Gold' which inspired Coronado to invade the area with Montezumaesque visions. Juan de Onate woud lead the first settlers to the area in 1598 and the long standing capital Santa Fe was founded in 1610.

This book was published in 1630 (15 Years after the 2nd Volume of Cervante's 'Don Quixote') by the Franciscan de Benavides from a fundraising report to the Pope. Its historical accuracy is certainly questionable, but it is also a very accessible authentic document of the period.

The longstanding infighting between the secular military authorities and the Franciscan Friars is touched on in the book, infighting which would lead the Franciscans to exercise inquisition authorites finally settling the dispute in their favor in the late 1650's. In 1682 the Pueblos, in an alliance with their semi-civilized Apache neighbors, would successfully revolt against their Spainish overlords.

The Conversion of the Apaches de Navajo

Leaving then this province of the Gila Apaches we proceed in the same direction along the western border of the settlements. Bearing north 50 Leagues (aprox. 150-200 miles), with the country full of the tiny hamlets of Gila Apache we come to the province of the Navajo Apaches. Although these people are part of the same nation as the Gila people, they are the subjects of another primary captain.

They have a distinct way of life as the others have never done any planting and sustain themselves solely by hunting. Nowadays we have planted a series of fields for them and taught them how to plant. And these Navajo are great workers, that's what 'Navajo' means - 'big planted fields'.

This province is the most bellicose of the entire Apache nation, and the place where the Spaniards have shown their greatest courage. This cordillera runs another 50 or 60 leagues, all of which is filled with alum deposits (used to fix dyes). The settled tribes and Christians, who are all inclined to dyes, need alum to dye their clothes. This is only found in areas where 2-3 thousand of the Pueblo indians will gather at a time to collect it.

The Navajo Apaches make war on these mineral collectors in defense of their land. A tremendous number of deaths will occur unless the collectors show up when the Navajo have gone off hunting in some other part of the iron deposit country.After they find people have been collecting their minerals they quickly band together and come to make war on the Christians. This is in revenge for people having entered their lands without permission.


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