History of Tiguas in El Paso

 

Artist: Pika
Address: 216 N Zaragoza

 

Tigua Creation Stories:

 

Long, long ago during the First Days, the people broke through the crust of the Earth. They came up out of their dark prison underground, crossed the Black Lake of Tears, and came to the shore on this side. 

When we descended from the Earth Mother, it was in some place way up north in New Mexico, the Black Lake, the place of emergence, the place where the people came up from the other world.[1] 

There were two groups, the black eyes [who reside in the sunset side of the pueblo] and the red eyes [who reside in the sunrise side of the pueblo]. The black eyes were the first to come out. One version that I heard is that they found a badger digging up from the other worlds, digging a hole to this world. They saw the light from this earth and then the black eyes came up, then the red eyes, then the chief of all people, our people, cacique, which is Tigua for chief. Then, the people came up from the different corn groups, some went East, some went West, South; well, eventually they settled where they originally were from. Not just Isleta, but all the Pueblo people in that area [New Mexico].[2]

Tribal member Danny Archuleta explained that although there are many varieties of the emergence story among the northern Pueblos, “[i]t is all one concept, one story. Emergence through the soft world, the wet world…the beaver and the spruce tree significantly aided the people in their transition from one world to the other .”[3]

 

The Tiguas became instrumental in El Paso’s history beginning in 1680 with the migrations from New Mexico as captives and refugees who accompanied the retreating colonial Spanish settlers to El Paso Del Norte during the Pueblo Revolt. When the retreating Spanish soldiers arrived in El Paso with their native captives, the Franciscans established three new pueblos for natives: Senecú, Socorro, and Ysleta. Each pueblo was named for its old pueblo and given the designation of del sur (“of the south”). Thus, the people from Isleta, later known as the Tigua, came to live in Ysleta del Sur. The Tigua community eventually solidified in Ysleta Del Sur and transitioned into a vibrant, productive, and attractive community that flourished amongst its Indigenous and non-Indigenous neighbors.

 

1692 Hinojosa Grant

Fray Joaquín de Hinojosa worked with the Tiguas who lived in the El Paso area. The land grant totaled 177, 136 acres and was used to control church property (El Paso, San Lorenzo, Senecú, Ysleta, and Socorro mission) as well as the natives that lived on or near each mission. Under this land grant, the Tigua territory extended from the Franklin Mountains, down the Rio Grande River into present-day Presidio County, and included Hueco Tanks as well as the land adjacent to the river from twenty to forty miles inland.[4] However, these lands also overlapped with Manso and Suma peoples’ ancestral lands.

 

Ysleta Mission

The word “Ysleta” derives from the word “little island” in Spanish. Ysleta was also settled in part by the Tiguas from Isleta, New Mexico after the Pueblo Revolt of 1680. In 1691, a permanent settlement was erected, and it lasted about half a century when the flood waters of 1740 carried it away.[5] Tiguas are largely responsible for Ysleta Mission’s survival to the present day.

However, the Tiguas would face constant challenges, especially as different regime changes occurred in small span of time. Tigua land dispossession began in 1821 and would begin to taper off in 1915.  “[My grandfather] said a white man rode up on a horse and showed him a piece of paper,” former Tigua governor Miguel Pedraza told the El Paso Times before his death. “He said the city had given him this piece of land and he ordered my grandfather off.”[6] By the turn of the century the Tigua had only 66 acres left in their possession. Thus, for almost a century, Tigua land tenure was under constant threat from outsiders, including Mexicans, Mexican Americans, Anglos, and neighboring Indian tribes such as Apaches, Piros, and Mansos.

 

Tigua Tribal Constitution of 1895

Tiguas declared their objective to remain culturally and politically sovereign from mainstream American society. The 1895 Constitution also outlined the governmental structure of the Tiguan tribe, introducing the roles of Cacique, Governor, Lieutenant Governor, War Captain, and Subordinate Captains.[7]

 

Termination Era Federal Indian Policy (1950s)

Congress took various aims that hoped to end federal obligations (payments/reservations, etc.) to all Indian tribes.  Three main tools the federal government used to accomplish this were the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) relocation program, the actual termination of some tribes, and the extension of state jurisdiction into Indian country through Public Law 280.[8] The Termination Era broke up many tribal reservations, relocated Indians to urban centers, and forced many to assimilate into mainstream US society.

 

Tribal Recognition

Attorney Tom Diamond and Anthropologist Nicholas Houser were instrumental in helping the Tigua community receive Federal recognition. The tribal recognition period began during the 1960s when Diamond intervened in various foreclosures of Tigua property for non-payment of taxes after the City of El Paso annexed the town of Ysleta in 1955.[9] Then, during the 1980s, debates over federal recognition included the tribe’s cultural authenticity, casino gambling, and blood quantum. After much negotiation and political maneuvering, the United States government recognized the Tigua of Ysleta del Sur Pueblo in 1987.

 

 

Tiguas Today

Ysleta del Sur Pueblo is the oldest community in the State of Texas as well as the oldest running government since its establishment in 1682.[10]

 

Speaking Rock Casino

One of many of the Tiguas Tribal Enterprises, and perhaps the most well-known for non-Tiguas for their high-class casino and entertainment venue, Speaking Rock has also experienced its share of controversy over the years. During the 1990s, the state of Texas and Federal officials challenged the legality of the Tiguas having a gambling casino within their reservations. It 2002, the Federal government shut down the Tiguas’ gambling license. It would not be until 2022, when the US Supreme Court ruled that the Tiguas have the sovereignty to operate gambling casinos within their reservation.[11]

 

Tiwa Tribe History by Pika

 

Bibliography

 

Primary Sources:

Coloff, Pamela. “The Blood of the Tigua” Texas Monthly. August 1999, https://www.texasmonthly.com/news-politics/the-blood-of-the-tigua/

Moore, Robert. “U.S. Supreme Court Sides with El Paso’s Tigua Tribe in Decades-long Gambling Fight with Texas” El Paso Matters. June 15, 2022, https://elpasomatters.org/2022/06/15/u-s-supreme-court-sides-with-el-pasos-tigua-tribe-in-decades-long-gambling-fight-with-texas/

Ysleta del Sur Pueblo website, https://www.ysletadelsurpueblo.org/about-us

Secondary Sources:

Adam, S.K. Extinction or Survival? The Remarkable Story of the Tigua, an Urban American Indian Tribe. New York: Routledge, 2009

Archer, Jane. The First Fire: Stories of the Cherokee, Kickapoo, Kiowa, and Tigua. Lanham, MD: Taylor Trade, 2005

Burrus, Ernest J. “Our Missions” in Four Centuries at the Pass: A New History of El Paso on its 400th Birthday, edited by W.H. Timmons. El Paso: City of El Paso Arts Resources Department, 1980

Comar, Scott. “The Tigua Indians of Ysleta del Sur: A Borderlands Community,” Ph.D. Dissertation, UTEP. Accessed at https://scholarworks.utep.edu/open_etd/1023/

[1] Jane Archer, The First Fire: Stories of the Cherokee, Kickapoo, Kiowa, and Tigua (Lanham, MD: Taylor Trade, 2005), 158.

[2] Quoted in S.K. Adam, Extinction or Survival? The Remarkable Story of the Tigua, an Urban American Indian Tribe (New York: Routledge, 2009) ,31-32

[3] Danny Archuleta, quoted in Scott Comar, “The Tigua Indians of Ysleta del Sur: A Borderlands Community,”  41, Ph.D. Dissertation, UTEP. Accessed at https://scholarworks.utep.edu/open_etd/1023/

[4] Ibid, 132

[5] Ernest J. Burrus, S.J, “Our Missions” in Four Centuries at the Pass: A New History of El Paso on its 400th Birthday, edited by W.H. Timmons (El Paso: City of El Paso Arts Resources Department, 1980), 25

[6] Pamela Coloff, “The Blood of the Tigua” Texas Monthly (August 1999), https://www.texasmonthly.com/news-politics/the-blood-of-the-tigua/

[7] Scott Comar, “The Tigua Indians of Ysleta del Sur: A Borderlands Community,” 253, Ph.D. Dissertation, UTEP. Accessed at https://scholarworks.utep.edu/open_etd/1023/

[8] “Termination Era, the 1950s, Public Law 280” Tribal Governance – Academics, 112 Home, Unit 2, University of Alaska, Fairbanks, https://www.uaf.edu/tribal/academics/112/unit-2/terminationerathe1950spubliclaw280.php#:~:text=The%201950s%20are%20called%20the,terminating%20federal%20obligations%20to%20tribes.

[9] Scott Comar, “The Tigua Indians of Ysleta del Sur: A Borderlands Community,” 317, Ph.D. Dissertation, UTEP. Accessed at https://scholarworks.utep.edu/open_etd/1023/

[10] “About Us,” Ysleta del Sur Pueblo website, https://www.ysletadelsurpueblo.org/about-us

[11] Robert Moore, “U.S. Supreme Court Sides with El Paso’s Tigua Tribe in Decades-long Gambling Fight with Texas” El Paso Matters (June 15, 2022), https://elpasomatters.org/2022/06/15/u-s-supreme-court-sides-with-el-pasos-tigua-tribe-in-decades-long-gambling-fight-with-texas/