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TIGUA - Road To Recognition: The Travails Of A Tribe

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Author Topic: TIGUA - Road To Recognition: The Travails Of A Tribe  (Read 3617 times)
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« on: March 09, 2009, 02:23:17 pm »


                                                                     T I G U A

                                                Road to recognition: The  travails of a tribe

By Venita Jenkins

— Whites mistook them for Mexicans.

The federal government thought they no longer existed.

But the Tigua Indians — also known as the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo — maintained their Indian culture and traditions for centuries in impoverished neighborhoods of east El Paso.

It wasn’t until they faced the threat of losing their homes to foreclosure in the 1960s that the Tiguas fought to be recognized by the federal government as an Indian tribe.

For them, it was a matter of survival.



Ysleta del Sur Pueblo (also Tigua Pueblo) is a Puebloan Native American tribal entity in El Paso, Texas, com-
prising a formerly Southern Tiwa-speaking people who were displaced from New Mexico in 1680 and 1681
during the Pueblo Revolt against the Spaniards. In Spanish the people and language are called Tigua.

They have maintained a tribal identity and lands in Texas.

Spanish replaced the indigenous language since around the early 1900s.

For almost 40 years the Pueblo has owned and operated tribal businesses that provide employment for its members and the El Paso community. These businesses include the Speaking Rock Entertainment Center, Big Bear Oil Co., Inc., and the Tigua Indian Cultural Center.

The tribe employs approximately 400 individuals.

In 1968 the United States Congress passed P.L. 100-89, which restored Federal recognition to this group, the

southernmost tribe of the Pueblo peoples.

In addition, the state of Texas recognized the tribe.

Two other tribes in Texas also have Federal and state recognition.

In April 2008, the Tribal Census Department reported 1,615 enrolled members.
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« Reply #1 on: March 09, 2009, 02:32:54 pm »

                                                          TIGUA TRIBE HISTORY


Tigua (Spanish form of Ti'wan, pl Tiwesh' (span. Tiguex), their own name).

A group of Pueblo tribes comprising three geographic divisions:

one occupying Taos and Picuris (the most northerly of the New Mexican pueblos) on the upper waters of the Rio Grande;

another inhabiting Sandia and Isleta, north and south of Albuquerque, respectively;

the third division, living in the pueblos of Isleta del Sur, Texas, and Senecu del Sur, Chihuahua, on the lower Rio Grande.

At the time of Coronado's visit to New Mexico in 1540-42, the Tigua inhabited Taos and Picuris in the north, and, as today, were separated from the middle group by the Tano, the Tewa, and the Rio Grande Queres (Keresan).

The villages of this middle group in the 16th century extended from a short distance above Bernalillo
to the neighborhood of Los Lunas and over an area east of the Rio Grande near the salt lagoons of
the Manzano, in a territory known as the Salinas, from Chilili to Quarai.

The pueblos in the south, near El Paso, were not established until late in the 17th century.
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« Reply #2 on: March 09, 2009, 02:38:13 pm »


               RIO GRANDE MAP

The Tigua were first made known to history through Coronado's expedition in 1540, whose chroniclers describe
their territory, the province of Tiguex, on the Rio Grande, as containing 12 pueblos on both sides of the river
and the people as possessing corn, beans, melons, skins, and long robes of feathers and cotton.

The Spaniards were received by them with friendliness, but when it was decided to spend the winter
of 1540-41 in Tiguex province, and the Spaniards demanded of the natives "about 300 or more pieces
of cloth" with which to clothe the army, even stripping the cloaks and blankets from their backs, the Indians avenged this and other outrages by running off the Spanish horse herd, of which they killed a large number, and fortifying themselves in one of their pueblos. This the Spaniards attacked, and after exchanging signs of peace the Indians put down their arms and were pardoned.

Nevertheless, through some misunderstanding the Spaniards proceeded to burn at the stake 200 of the captives, of whom about half were shot down in an attempt to escape the torture to which the others were being subjected. Says Castaneda, the principal chronicler of the expedition: "Not a man of them remained alive, unless it was some who remained hidden in the village and escaped that night to spread throughout the country the news that the strangers did not respect the peace they had made."

As a result of this ill- - treatment the Tigua abandoned all but two of their villages, one of which was also known to the Spaniards as Tiguex (see Puaray), into which they took all their stores and equipped themselves for the inevitable siege.

Every overture made by the Spaniards toward peace was now received with derision by the natives, who informed them that they "did not wish to trust themselves to people who had no regard for friendship or their own word which they had pledged."

One of the Tigua villages was surrounded and attacked by means of ladders, but time and again the Spaniards were beaten off, 50 being wounded in the first assault. During the siege, which lasted 50 days, the Indians lost 200 of their number and surrendered 100 women and children. Finally, the water supply of the natives became exhausted and, in an attempt to leave the village at night and cross the river with the remainder of their women, "there were few who escaped being killed or wounded."

The other pueblo suffered the same fate, but its inhabitants apparently did not withstand the siege so long. In attempting to escape, the Spaniards pursued "and killed large numbers of them." The soldiers then plundered the town and captured about 100 women and children.
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« Reply #3 on: March 09, 2009, 02:41:54 pm »

In 1581 Chamuscado, with 8 soldiers and 7 Indian servants, accompanied the Franciscan missionaries, Agustin Rodriguez, Francisco Lopez, and Juan de Santa Maria, to the country of the Tigua, but all three were killed by the Indians after the departure of the escort.

In 1583 Antonio de Espejo with 14 Spanish followers journeyed to New Mexico and on his approach the Indians of Puaray, where Rodriguez and Lopez had been killed, fled for fear of vengeance. This was the pueblo, Espejo learned, at which Coronado had lost 9 men and 40 horses, thus identifying it with one of the Tigua villages besieged by Coronado 40 years before.

In 1591 Castaño de Sosa also visited the Tigua, as did Oñate in 1598, the latter discovering on a wall
at Puaray a partially effaced native painting representing the killing of the three missionaries.

In 1629, according to Benavides, the Tigua province extended over 11 or 12 leagues along the Rio Grande and consisted of 8 pueblos, with 6,000 inhabitants. This reduction in the number of villages was doubtless due to the effort of the Spanish missionaries, soon after the beginning of the 17th century, to consolidate the settlements both to insure greater security from the predatory Apache and to facilitate missionary work.

Thus, in 1680, the time of the beginning of the Pueblo revolt, the Tigua occupied only the pueblos of Puaray, Sandia, Alameda, and Isleta, all on the Rio Grande. The population of these towns at the date named was estimated by Vetailcurt at 200, 3,000, 300, and 2.000, respectively.
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« Reply #4 on: March 09, 2009, 02:46:20 pm »

The eastern portion of what was the southern area of the Tigua up to about 1674 was limited to a narrow strip along the eastern slope of the Manzano mountains, beginning with the pueblo of Chilili in the north, including Tajique and possibly a pueblo near the present Manzano, and ending with Quarai.

In this area in 1581, according to Chamuscado, were 11 pueblos.

To the east, however, lay a country bountifully supplied with game, including the buffalo, while round about the settlements in every direction were the saline lagoons from which this section of country derives its name and from which salt was obtained for barter with tribes as far south as Parral in Chihuahua.

Yet the aborigines were beset with many disadvantages. Their range was for the greater part an inhospitable desert, exposed to the depredations of the ever-wily Apache, whose constant raids resulted first in the abandonment of Chilili between 1669 and 1674, then Quarai, about 1674, its inhabitants joining those of Tajique pueblo, which a year later was also permanently abandoned.

Most of these villagers of the Salinas fled for safety to their kindred at Isleta on the Rio Grande,
where they remained until 1680. At this date began the Pueblo revolt against Spanish authority, in which participated the Tigua of Taos and Picuris, as well as of Isleta, Sandia, Alameda, and Puaray.

On the appearance of Gov. Otermin in his attempted reconquest of the country in the following year
all these pueblos except Isleta were abandoned and were afterward burned by the Spaniards.

Isleta was stormed and about 500 of the inhabitants were made captives, most of whom were taken
to El Paso and afterward settled in the pueblo of  Isleta del Sur, Texas.

Of the remainder of the population of Isleta del Norte and Sandia a large portion fled to Tusayan,
where they lived with the Hopi until 1709 or 1718, when the Isletaños returned and reestablished
their pueblo.

The Sandia Indians, however, who numbered 441, appear to have remained with the Hopi, in a pueblo called Payupki on the Middle mesa until 1742, when they were taken by Padres Delgado and Pino to
the Rio Grande and settled in a new pueblo at or near the site of their old one.

Alameda and Puaray were never reestablished as Indian pueblos.
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« Reply #5 on: March 09, 2009, 02:51:15 pm »

                               The following are the Tigua pueblos, so far as known:




Isleta del Sur

Picuris Sandia

Senecu del Sur






Chilili, Isleta (N. Alex.)

Isleta del Stir



Manzano Mojualuna







Quarai San Antonio



Senecu del Stir (includes also Piro)





                                                  The following pueblos, now extinct:













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« Reply #6 on: March 09, 2009, 03:15:39 pm »

Corn growing in the oldest continually cultivated piece of land in the Southwest
Tigua Indian Reservation.

by Karen Nash

                                          The Tigua Indians:  Food for Thought

By Ed Thick
Your first thought when you read about the Tigua Indians is probably similar to mine before I re-
searched their food habits. I have lived in this area for most of my life, and I never fully realized
what contributions the Tiguas gave to the culture and lifestyle of the people of this area.

My first assumption was that they were the Indians that lived in Ysleta and made jewelry.

Although this is true, they are much more than that.

They were among the first, if not the first, settlers of this area and contributed a great deal to the cultural food habits that exist today.

The Tigua Indians' arrival to this area began in 1680 as a result of the Pueblo Revolt, a bloody confrontation between the Spaniards living in Taos and Santa Fe, New Mexico, and the New Mexico Indians who included the Tewas of Isleta.

Ray Apodaca, Governor of the Tigua tribe, tells of two separate revolts that resulted in the arrival of Indians who named their settlement after their original village. The Pueblo Revolt of 1680 resulted in about 300 Indians going south and settling in present-day Ysleta voluntarily. The second occurred in 1681 when the Spaniards decided to return to New Mexico to try to reclaim the land they had lost in the first uprising. Unsuccessful, the Spaniards forced about 800 Tiguas from Ysleta to return with them to Paso del Norte, using them as a human shields during the retreat.
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« Reply #7 on: March 09, 2009, 03:22:24 pm »

In their new home the Indians revere the land and its animals for the ample nourishment that nature provided. What could this arid desert supply them? Cactus, abundant to the area, provided a nourishing food source for the Tigua. Desert animals also became a food source. The Tiguas ate the readily available rabbit, deer and snake.
But the Tiguas of the 1700s also flourished as farmers. Using the Rio Grande for irrigation, they amassed the most productive farmland in the area. Corn, squash and beans were among their staples.

They ground corn into flour with a metate, a stone device you might see in your great-grandmother's home today. The corn was used in making tortillas and bread, and much of the food was cooked in adobe ovens, beehive-shaped domes.

In addition to using the land for sustenance, the Tiguas gathered wild herbs and grew others for their medicinal value, as did the Spaniards and Americans. Catnip, rosemary, mugwort or wormwood, and spearmint are among the herbs still utilized by the tribe as teas to soothe various symptoms.

Catnip tea is believed to prevent colic in babies as well as helping them to sleep. Rosemary, which grows wild in and around El Paso, soothes an upset stomach while mugwort tea relaxes a patient. Tea made from spearmint is drunk to soothe a sore throat. In the seventies the Tiguas sold these and other herbs and spices to tourists. Although the Tiguas no longer grow these herbs as a tribe, many individuals still have their own herb gardens. Upon establishing the Ysleta Mission, the Spaniards reportedly grew their own grapes for making sacramental wine. Wisely, the Spaniards enlisted the successful Tigua farmers to cultivate their vineyards.

Daniel Archuleta, Tigua Education Coordinator, tells of a grapevine thriving in the Culture Center before it was remodeled into the present-day restaurant Wyngs. The vine was believed to be derived from a cutting of one of the original vines. During the remodeling, a workwoman inadvertently uprooted and discarded the vine.

Like much of Tigua history, the origin of the vine was not documented, so this history remains apocryphal. However, the incident reflects just one of the many losses the Tiguas have had to endure.
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« Reply #8 on: March 09, 2009, 03:25:30 pm »

Apodaca says the Spanish and later American settlers of this area realized what a value the Rio Grande was to the farming of the area and eventually encroached upon the Tigua farmland, forcing the Indians to sustain themselves by other means.

Although the Tigua land has dwindled from approximately 23,040 acres granted them by the King Charles V of Spain in 1751 to a mere 67 acres that they now control, the Tiguas have managed to survive against overwhelming odds.

The only ties the Tiguas still have to farming is a small patch of land, located in the courtyard of the Tribal Center where they still grow corn. This land has been documented as one of the oldest continually cultivated pieces of land in the Southwest.

Living in the middle of a bustling community, modern Tiguas have come to rely heavily on tourism to survive. The reservation, just southeast of El Paso, has many attractions.
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« Reply #9 on: March 09, 2009, 03:26:50 pm »

Fresh from the oven

Outside in the courtyard stand three beehive ovens the Tiguas use for the baking of their bread, now sold to visitors. While the preparation of the dough is done out of view of the tourists, only the finest ingredients are used, and tradition is followed as closely as possible. While the sale of the bread to the public has necessitated obvious modernization of the preparation, the baking of the bread remains traditional.

Ovens are heated to approximately 400 degrees using mesquite wood common to the area. Just as the mesquite is turning to ashes, the bread is put in the oven in large grapefruit-size balls. The bread takes from thirty minutes to an hour to bake. Tourists meandering in the courtyard may find the alluring aroma of the baking bread permeates their every thought. They must to wait for the loaves to be retrieved in order to buy the large, round, crusty bread. Although the baking of their bread remains traditional, it is one of few traditional food habits still practiced by the Tiguas.

One of the reservation's attractions is its restaurants. The Tigua Restaurant operates during the day, and Wyngs, the newer of the two, operates in the evening hours. When you enter the gift shop at the east entrance, you will spot a small arrangement of tables and chairs that comprise the Tigua Restaurant. The aromas emanating from the kitchen invite you to sample the fare.

The Tiguas serve their own bread as an accompaniment to several dishes and heap brisket and a special sauce on slices of bread as one of their specialties. You can also order an "Indian Burger" served on thick slices of the fresh bread. But they also serve a variety of "Indian-Tex-Mex" foods, including green chile stew with meat and a red chile stew, named as the best in the U.S. by People Magazine.

The Tiguas also boast of "El Paso's First and Only Original Fajitas," marinated strips with pico de gallo and guacamole. The menu features "Pueblo Tacos," Indian fried bread (much like a soft fried flour tortilla) topped with the seasoned ground beef, fresh lettuce and tomatoes and shredded cheese. The Fajitas and these tacos are both a "must" when you visit the reservation.

From seventeenth-century refugees to farmers to twentieth-century restaurateurs, the Tiguas are determined to survive. Today they capitalize on tourism to do that. Maintaining their pride, the Tiguas have become one of the major tourist attractions in this area. All El Pasoans and visitors to the area should visit the reservation and sample their food, a unique combination of the predominant cultures on the border.
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« Reply #10 on: March 09, 2009, 03:42:15 pm »


Ysleta Del Sur

Official Website
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« Reply #11 on: March 09, 2009, 03:54:45 pm »


               EAGLE DANCER
               Ysleta Del Sur Symbol

For centuries, the Tiguas have celebrated their life through dancing. During all the dances the participants face north, south, east and west to honor all directions. The four colors most often worn during the dances are red, green, yellow, and black.   


Visitors can see Tigua social dances performed at the Cultural Center.
Visitors to the reservation are invited to observe "social dances" which various groups of Tigua youths perform. Examples of these include the Butterfly Dance held around Easter to give thanks to nature for its offerings; the Eagle dance which recognizes the sky's powers; the Round Dance celebrating friendship; and the Pueblo Two-Step which is a greeting of seasons and expresses hip for element balance. According to Eickhoff, many other dances, including the Turtle Dance designed "to seek eternal life," are performed privately in the underground kiva or tuh-la.

During the dances, several male Tiguas keep the beat with a drum and sing in their native tongue, Tiwa. One drum is of particular importance. Called the Sacred Drum, it came south with the Tiguas in 1680. Covered with buffalo skin, it is decorated with a moon with a face on one side and eight stars around it.

Known as Juan, or "Juanchido," it is the drum that has kept the Tiguas together for centuries. The drum is like an old wise man, knowing everything about the Tiguas. Believed to have a soul of its own, the drum provides spiritual advice to the Tiguas. It is fed corn, and the War Captain breathes life into the drum through a small hole.
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« Reply #12 on: March 09, 2009, 04:05:05 pm »


Since the opening of Speaking Rock Casino in 1994, the Tiguas have made many improvements in their tribe. Unemployment is down to two percent. A new cultural center and medical clinic join two restaurants, a smoke shop, a print shop and six tourist-oriented businesses which have opened with the money the casino brings in.

On May 2, 1998, the Tiguas opened their newest enterprise: a gas station and convenience store called "Running Bear." Selling gasoline for 99 cents a gallon, the station is attracting Eastside motorists who have been paying several cents more per gallon. The Tiguas have purchased Big Bear Oil Company and say this will be the everyday price of gasoline.

But another problem for the Tiguas looms over their recent prosperity: the question of blood quantum. In 1987, Congress passed a law limiting tribal membership only to those Indians whose blood level is 1/8 degree and higher. Tigua blood has been severely diluted by intermarrying with non-Indians over 300 years.

Already more than a third of the tribe's 1,500 members are at the minimum 1/8th level. A bill introduced in 1994 asking that the blood limitation be lowered never made it out of committee. The Tribal Council hopes to extend services to those who do not meet federal blood guidelines but show some blood link to the tribe.

After generations of hardship, only a few full-blooded Tiguas remain, but the tribe is financially sound. Young Tiguas are learning their own language in elementary school. Traditional tribal arts, cooking and dancing are kept alive at the cultural center on the reservation. Tribal programs now exist to aid in buying or fixing a home and going to college.

Today, the Tigua tribe is the subject of interest of historians, ethnologists and other researchers. But the Indians have not forgotten that they were separated from their original tribe, forced to embrace a foreign religion and way of life and to work and protect their Spanish oppressors. And so they chose not to participate in El Paso's Quadricentennial celebration this year.

The Tiguas have much to celebrate, however, not the least being their tenacity and will to survive. Thirty years after their official recognition, they also are doing a pretty good job at achieving prosperity and generating a great deal of interests in El Paso, the missions and their unique tribe.
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« Reply #13 on: March 09, 2009, 04:17:35 pm »

Tigua tribal organization follows the Puebloan or Spanish model. The cacique, elected by the tribal council for life, is the religious leader, and the governor, elected by the tribal council, is the administrative officer. Other officials include lieutenant governor, war captain, alguacil,qv captains, mayordomos, and council members, who are elected by the men of the tribe.

Since 1967 a few women have been elected to council positions, but traditionalists resist women as tribal officers. Traditional Tigua kinship was matrilineal; the home and land belonged to the mother's clan group. By the turn of the century, this traditional kinship pattern was replaced by the Hispanic patrilineal system.

Marriage ceremonies were formally Catholic in nature, but recently there has been an increasing recognition of the native religion, and some weddings are a blend of both.

There is also a small but growing evangelical Protestant movement.

For those who take an active role in the traditional rituals of the tribe, puberty rites are performed in secret meetings by the tribal elders.

The Tiguas of Ysleta are increasingly interacting with other tribes through various organizations.

The Isleta group of the Tiguas has officially recognized the Ysleta group, but some of the former continue to harbor suspicions that the Ysleta group's blood quantum is so diluted that the tribe is completely Hispanicized.

Today the Tiguas of Ysleta del Sur occupy about twenty-six acres of trust land and live in housing built by government loans on the reservation or in the El Paso community. On ceremonial occasions the men don calico-fringed jackets, which resemble the old leather jackets in historic photographs, and the women wear pueblo dresses adopted during the Spanish period. The Tiguas' principal public celebration is Fiesta de San Antonio, held on June 13. Many tribe members work for the tribe in various administrative and service jobs.
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« Reply #14 on: March 09, 2009, 04:23:48 pm »

Road to recognition: Federal aid a boon to Tigua tribe
Mar 09, 2009

(The Fayetteville Observer
- McClatchy-
Tribune Information Services via COMTEX)
-- EL PASO, Texas --

For years, Pilar De La Torre's diabetes went unchecked and her blood sugar spiraled out of control.

With no health insurance, she wouldn't go to a doctor's office. De La Torre, who is 57 and a member of the Tigua tribe, knew what would happen if she didn't take better care of herself. Both her parents had died of complications from diabetes.

When the tribe opened the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo Community Health Center in the late 1980s, De La Torre started getting help. She had access to medical services free of charge.

"We have everything right here, and I don't have to pay," she said. "We can't ask for anything more."

Del La Torre also had access to primary care physicians outside the reservation without having to worry about the cost.

For decades, the Tigua tribe struggled to provide health care and other services to its 1,600 members. It wasn't until the Tiguas were federally recognized in 1987 that leaders were able to help tribal members get access to better health care.

They didn't stop there.

Tribal leaders understood that improving the quality of life for tribal members meant not only health care but also providing educational and economic opportunities.
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