A major role.
In the 1670s, drought swept the region, which caused famine among the Pueblo and provoked increased attacks from neighboring nomadic tribes—attacks against which Spanish soldiers were unable to defend. At the same time, European-introduced diseases were ravaging the natives, greatly decreasing their numbers. Unsatisfied with the protective powers of the Spanish crown and disenchanted with the Roman Catholic religion it had brought along, the people turned to their old religions. This provoked a wave of repression on the part of Franciscan missionaries. While previously the church and Spanish officials tended to ignore occasional manifestations of the old religion as long as the Puebloans attended mass and maintained a public veneer of Catholicism, Fray Alonso de Posada "forbade Kachina dances by the Pueblo Indians and ordered the missionaries to seize every mask, prayer stick, and effigy they could lay their hands on and burn them..... . To give up their religion would have been like giving up life itself." Several Spanish officials, such as Nicolas de Aguilar, who attempted to curb the power of the Franciscans were charged with heresy and tried before the Inquisition.
In 1675, Governor Juan Francisco Treviño ordered the arrest of forty-seven Pueblo medicine men and accused them of practicing witchcraft. Four medicine men were sentenced to death by hanging; three of those sentences were carried out, while the fourth prisoner committed suicide. The remaining men were publicly whipped and sentenced to prison. When this news reached the Pueblo leaders, they moved in force to Santa Fe, where the prisoners were held. Because a large number of Spanish soldiers were away fighting the Apache, Governor Treviño released the prisoners. Among those released was a San Juan (called "Ohkay Owingeh" by the Pueblo) Indian named "Popé" (pronounced Po'Pay