Po'Pay Statue; National Statuary Hall, Emancipation Hall,                  United State Capitol Building, Washington DC

Cliff Fragua, of Jemez Pueblo, New Mexico, has been awarded one of the mostprestigious commissions for sculptors in the United States.  His rendition of Po'pay has been selected to represent the State of New Mexico in the National Statuary Hall in Washington, DC.  The artist selection was made in December of 1999 based on a maquette (or model) of Po'Pay that was submitted to the New Mexico Statuary Hall Commission.  The sculpture is made from Tennessee marble, and stands 7 feet tall.  The sculpture was completed in May 2005 and installed and dedicated in September of the same year.  It is currently on display in Emancipation Hall in the new Capitol Building Vistior Center.

Emancipation Hall, United States Capitol Building, Washington DC


The National Statuary Hall is located in the United States Capitol Building in Washington D.C.. It was initially built as a second chamber for the House of Representatives, and was one of the earliest examples of Greek revival architecture in America.  In 1864, after 50 years of use by the House, Congress determined that the best use of the Hall was to honor great Americans by inviting each state to contribute two sculptures, created from bronze or marble, for permanent display.  

As of September, 2005, the entire collection now consists of100 statues, contributed by 50 states.  All states have contributed two statues each, with New Mexico contributing the last and final statute, thus completing this prestigious collection. 

For more information about the collection, see:


The National Statuary Hall was created by law of Congress on July 2, 1864.....

"The President is hereby authorized to invite each and all States to provide and furnish statues, in marble or bronze, not exceeding two in number for each State, of deceased persons who have been citizens thereof, and illustrious for their historic renown or for distinguished civic or military services."

Detail of Po'Pay


Po'pay was born around 1630 in pueblo village of Oke Oweenge, otherwise known as San Juan Pueblo.  His given name was Popyn, which means “Ripe Squash” in Tewa.  He grew up among a peaceful people who tended their crops and observed their native religion.  This religion was interwoven into fabric of their daily lives, and was as fundamental to them as their breath.  It not only consisted of ceremonies, dances and other ritual observances, but also was a central part of all the actions and interactions of their existence as it had been for centuries.

As Po'pay grew into a young man, the Spanish settlers in New Mexico became more and more powerful.  They were determined to dominate these peaceful people, and forced many Pueblo People into labor to build churches and support the growing Spanish community.  They were required to provide food and other necessities to the Spaniards from their own short supplies.  People who did not comply were flogged, burned at the stake, garroted, or taken into slavery.  Men were routinely punished, and women routinely raped.

The Spaniards also exerted extreme pressure on the Pueblo People to give up their religion and their way of life in favor of Christianity.  The dances and other ceremonies were forbidden, and those found practicing their religion were made examples of, and were tortured before being put to death.  

In 1675, forty-seven Pueblo leaders were rounded up and tried for sorcery.  They were convicted, and sentenced to hang, or be flogged.  Po'pay was among those sentenced; he was then whipped, and bore the scars as a symbol of the Spanish oppression for the rest of his life.

In 1680, Po'pay organized the successful overthrow of the Spanish tyranny, now called the "Pueblo Revolt".  He and his followers agreed that runners would be sent to each Pueblo carrying a deerskin strip tied with knots.  Each knot represented the number of days remaining before the campaign against the Spaniards would begin.  Every morning, at each Pueblo, a knot would be untied.  When all the knots had been untied, the uprising against the Spaniards was to begin in all the Pueblos.

This plan almost failed because sympathizers in several villages notified the Spaniards of its details.  The Spaniards then arrested two of the runners, and their deerskin strips were taken.  Two days before the last knot was untied, on August 10, 1680, the attacks on the Spaniards began.  It caught the Spaniards by surprise, and as a result they were unprepared for the battle.  As more and more Puebloans joined in the uprising, the Spaniards retreated to Santa Fe, and were held at bay by the huge number of Puebloan warriors.  The water supply was then restricted to the fort at Santa Fe.  Eventually the remaining Spaniards were allowed to leave, and head south toward El Paso.  The Pueblo leader, Po'pay, had led the first successful revolution against foreign oppressors on North American soil.


"My rendition of Po'pay depicts a simple man, one who is concerned for survival of his family, his culture, and the history and beliefs of the Pueblo People.  His actions against the Spaniards were not acts of defiance, but rather, acts of survival.  In the eyes of the Pueblo People, the world would be doomed if the Spaniards were allowed to continue the suppression of the centuries-old Native religion and beliefs.  The songs and ceremonies had to be performed so the world would continue to spin and the rains would continue their blessings.

"Po'pay was not a trained fighter, but a man who tended gardens, hunted, and participated in the Kiva ceremonies.  He was a religious man who was responsible for making sure the ceremonial calendar was followed.  He was also responsible for the well-being of his family and community, and provided for them through his hunting and farming.

In my rendition, he holds in his hands items that will determine the future existence of the Pueblo People.  The knotted cord in his left hand was used to determine when the Revolt would begin.  (As to how many knots were used is debatable, but I feel that it must have taken many days to plan and notify most of the Pueblos.)  The bear fetish in his right hand symbolizes the center of the Pueblo world, the Pueblo religion.  The pot behind him symbolizes the Pueblo culture, and the deerskin he wears is a humble symbol of his status as a provider.  The necklace that he wears is a constant reminder of where life began, and his clothing consists of a loin cloth and moccasins in Pueblo fashion.  His hair is cut in Pueblo tradition and bound in a chongo.  On his back are the scars that remain from the whipping he received for his participation and faith in the Pueblo ceremoniesand religion."

--Cliff Fragua 

"For the Pueblo people, specifically, the greatest legacy of the Revolt of their ancestors, has been that they have endured with their cultural integrity in tact, free to speak their languages, live on their own lands, and perform their ancient dances.  Because of a desperate, despair-born gamble on the part of the Pueblo people of 1680, their descendants have lived to find that their cultural integrity is regarded as essential to the well-being of all New Mexico and the Southwest.  A successful revolution, it seems to me, can leave no greater legacy."   Alfonso Ortiz, (1939-1997) San Juan Pueblo