Saturday, August 31, 2019

Beyond mountains, territory of the Utes, and Colorado River

And there were seven Spanish Angels,
At the alter of the Sun.
They were prayin' for the lovers,
In the valley of the gun.
And when the battle stopped,
And the smoke cleared.
There was thunder from the throne.
And seven Spanish angels,
Took another angel home.
__ song writers, Troy Harold Seals, Edward F. Setser

 But what about the buried cannons? 

... half-finished silver mines? ... seventh mythical city? 

By Rob Carrigan,

Growing up on the Dolores River in Southwestern Colorado, my friends and I imagined, in great detail, earlier Spanish conquistadors such as Coronado, out searching our pinion- and juniper-covered hills for the seventh city of gold, or rich mines of La Plata silver.
The  Seven Cities of Gold, also known as the Seven Cities of Cibola, is a myth that was popular in the 16th century and according to legend, the seven cities of gold could be found throughout the pueblos of the New Mexico Territory. The cities were Hawikuh, Halona, Matsaki, Quivira, Kiakima, Cibola, and Kwakina.
Fabulous stories of battle-rushed Spanish explorers, evading Ute marauders, stuffing cannons with gold and silver, and burying those treasures in the local hills — filled our days.
I learned later, of course, that Coronado never made it that far north, and didn't really have very good track record. And much of the real heavy lifting in the Spanish exploration work was accomplished by the 10-man party led by two Franciscan Friars Francisco Atanasio Dominguez and Silvestre Velez de Escalante, and guided somewhat, by Ute friendlies through the area in 1776.
But what about the buried cannons? The half-finished silver mines? And the seventh mythical city?
Coronado was severely disappointed by the lack of gold, but wrote that, "As far as I can tell, these Indians worship water, because it makes the corn grow and sustains their life."
About the pueblo, he reported that, although they are not decorated with turquoises, nor made of lime or good bricks, nevertheless they are very good houses, with three, four, and five stories, where there are very good apartments ... and some very good rooms underground, Kivas, paved, which are made for winter and have something like hot baths."
Others early Colorado explorers, like Antonio de Valverde, and Pedro de Villasur had similar results as Coronado did, to the east and south.
"Pushing beyond El Quarteledjo, Villasur's part explored the South Platte, which he named the Rio Jesus y Maria. They camped near junction of the North and South Platte' where the Pawnees, encouraged by the French, surprised the camp at dawn, killing Villasur and all but 13 of his party," according to "The Historical Atlas of Colorado,"  written by Thomas J. Noel, Paul F. Mahoney, and Richard E. Stevens.
In 1739, the brothers Paul and Pierre Mallet led the first recorded French expedition into Colorado.  This was the earliest known crossing of the Great Plains from the Missouri River to Santa Fe, the Atlas reported.
"Threatened by French Excursions  into the Southwest, Spain pursued further exploration and settlement."
 "Juan Antonio María de Rivera (1738–?) was a Spaniard and the first Euro-American to intensively explore the territory that eventually became the state of Colorado. In 1765 he made two trips into western Colorado from New Mexico, traveling as far as the Gunnison River in Delta County. Along the way he interacted extensively with Ute- and Paiute-speaking Native Americans. His journals are the first detailed descriptions of these peoples."
Rivera’s travels have been summarized in the Spanish Exploration of Western Colorado, and according to recent writings of Steven G. Baker, of Colorado Enclopedia.
"The Spanish colony of New Mexico was founded in 1598, and its residents laid the very foundation of Colorado’s history. These peoples’ explorations and interactions with Native Americans characterize the earliest documented accounts of the Centennial State. Until the Mexican War for Independence in 1821, Colorado was part of the extensive Spanish territories governed by the colony.
"Rivera is suspected to have come to New Mexico from New Spain as part of the retinue of governor Don Tomás Vélez Cachupín, who began his second term as governor in 1762. While he does not appear to have been highly educated or a formally trained engineer, as some writers have indicated, the specific mining terms Rivera used in his journals suggest that he may have had some practical mining experience in New Spain," according to Baker.
Although Rivera has at times been referred to as “Captain” Rivera, there is no evidence that he was a professional military man. The governor, who would certainly have followed current protocols and customs in addressing Rivera, does not refer to him as either “captain” or “don” in his formal instructions to him. The lack of reference to him as “Don Rivera” indicates that Rivera was neither of high birth nor a member of the colony’s more favored elite class.
"During his second term in office, Governor Vélez Cachupín finally succeeded in making peace with the Utes of western Colorado, who gave him permission to search their territory for silver. Cachupín chose Rivera to lead two of these expeditions in 1765, the first in a series of expeditions into western Colorado. The first began in June. Rivera and his men traveled north from Abiquiu, New Mexico, to the Piedra Parada (Standing Rock)—known today as Chimney Rock—near present-day Pagosa Springs, Colorado. From there the party explored southwest Colorado and named several of the region’s rivers, including the Navajo, San Juan, Piedra, Piños (Pine), Florida, Animas, and Dolores Rivers. Near the Animas River they were supposed to meet a Ute man who would show them the way up to silver deposits in the La Plata (San Juan) Mountains; at first the man was nowhere to be found, but the party later met up with him, followed him into the mountains, and conducted an unsuccessful search for silver.
Rivera’s second expedition began in the fall of 1765 with the goal of crossing the Colorado River and investigating rumors of bearded people who supposedly lived on the other side, in the legendary region of Teguayo. It was during this expedition that Rivera left one of the oldest inscriptions in the western United States, carving his name into a cliff face in Roubideau Canyon, southwest of present-day Delta. Rivera exited the canyon and found the Gunnison River, but he never made it to the Colorado—the Utes he met while camping in the Uncompahgre valley told him the route was too dangerous. Rivera made no more entries in his journal once he left the Uncompahgre Valley. His expedition returned to New Mexico in November.
"By the mid-eighteenth century, the New Mexico colony had not grown and prospered like many of the other Spanish colonies farther south in what is now Mexico because, unlike New Spain’s more prosperous colonies, they had not found any silver deposits that could be easily mined. Based on silver specimens they obtained by trading with some Utes, the Spanish suspected silver to be present in the San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado, 200 miles north of Santa Fé. This area was controlled by the Utes and was thus off-limits to the Spaniards, " wrote Steven G. Baker.
"In the 1750s, New Mexico had a bright and capable governor named Tomás Vélez Cachupín, who served two terms (1749–54 and 1762–67). He recognized that the colony would have to make peace with the Utes if it ever hoped to develop silver mines. He knew he could bring about a peaceful relationship if he would allow the Spaniards to begin trading with the Native Americans. If he could gain the Utes’ trust and make peace with them, he might be able to explore the San Juans and find the source of their silver."
Baker also tells of the Teguayo.
"According to an ancient Native American legend, Teguayo (pronounced TewaYO) was an unexplored land far to the north of the colony near a large lake. It was said to be beyond the mountains, the territory of the Utes, and the then-uncharted Colorado River, which was known as the River Tizón. This land was supposedly the home of a variety of Native American people who spoke many different languages," he says.
"These people were said to include a strange kind of white people who grew long beards and looked more like Europeans than Native Americans. The Spanish authorities in New Mexico were afraid that these strange bearded people might be Frenchmen or Russians who were encroaching on their territories. They therefore considered it necessary to find out who these strange people were and to determine if they posed any threat to the colony. The Spaniards could not go to Teguayo, however, until peace had been made with the Utes."

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