Juan de Oñate

Oñate, Juan de (hwän dā ōnyäˈtā) [key], fl. 1595–1614, Spanish explorer in the American Southwest, possibly b. New Spain. In 1598 he led an expedition north from New Spain, took possession of New Mexico for the Spanish king, and established a settlement at San Juan. He was immediately faced by an Native American revolt at Acoma, which he put down brutally. In 1601, Oñate, in search of Quivira, led an expedition across present Oklahoma to the plains around Wichita, Kans., then returned, unsuccessful, to New Mexico, where discontent was rife among the colonists. Anxious to find a route to the South Sea, he led (1605) an expedition westward, reached the Colorado River, and went down it to the Gulf of California before turning back to his colony. He was relieved (1609) as governor and tried on charges of misconduct in office. Convicted in 1614, he later sought a pardon, which was granted before 1624. One of his lieutenants, Gaspar de Villagrá, celebrated Oñate's deeds in Historia de la Nueva México, but his real achievements in founding and exploring a broad new realm did not receive the deserved recognition.

See study by G. P. Hammond and A. Rey (1953); M. Simmons, The Last Conquistador (repr. 1993).

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