Defending the Frontier
War Shield (Gwijer) of Bernardo Olguín
Tigua Scout, Ysleta Pueblo
Dr. H.F.C. Ten Kate Jr. Collection
Courtesy of Rijksmuseum, Leiden, Netherlands
Tigua warriors were respected for their courage, stamina and tracking abilities. For over two hundred years they made important contributions to frontier defense and protected the Camino Real (Royal Road) from bandits and marauding Indians. The Tigua served as Indian scouts and guides during the periods of sovereignty of Spain (1682-1821), Mexico (1821-1848) and the United States (since 1848). They served with Spanish and Mexican troops that were garrisoned at nearby San Elizario, some 10 miles downriver. Later, the Tigua scouted for the American Army and the Texas Rangers.
For more information, see this site "Tigua Military".
Tigua Lands Attract Non-Indian Thieves
In 1848, Ysleta Pueblo and the El Paso region became part of the United States as result of the war with Mexico. More and more American emigrants arrived in the area seeking land and opportunity. With them came bullies and bandits whose presence threatened the peace and security of the region, especially the lands and well-being of the Indian and Hispanic inhabitants.
Some of the new arrivals predicated that land values would soar when the railroad arrived at the Pass of the North. The Tigua were friendly and hospitable to most new comers and sold them produce and livestock. They provided scouts, guides and teamsters. However, Tigua land and resources were becoming vulnerable to the acquisitive American settlers. The threats of loss of land and autonomy increased following the Civil War, during the Reconstruction period, when hungry and scheming land speculators and politicians descended on the region looking for rewards and spoils.
Senator Albert Jennings Fountain of El Paso in 1871 introduced the Ysleta Incorporation Act
to attempt to subvert Indian title
to the Ysleta Indian Land Grant. Courtesy of UTEP Library
In 1871, a group of non-Indians, aided and abetted by the State of Texas, illegally incorporated the town of Ysleta. The fraudulent incorporation included not only the immediate area of old Ysleta Pueblo, but the entire Ysleta Grant. The United States Federal Indian Claims Commission is now adjudicating the case. The vast hunting and gathering domains, external to the Ysleta Grant, were gradually closed to the Tigua Indians. In 1877 a group of opportunists seized the Guadalupe Salt Flats, which the Indians had been an important part of tribal territory and was shared with non-Indian valley farmers from both sides of the Rio Grande. It was during this period that the Tigua were removed from their old pueblo, often as result of unpaid taxes and outright seizures. In the 1880’s, land speculators, who advertised the fertile lands of Ysleta, noted that the town’s attractions included the Pueblo Indians. The once self-sufficient Tigua Indians had become day laborers and contract workers in an industrialized society.
Tribal Culture and Identity Survive
During the next 96 years (1871-1967), Tribal members struggled to survive. Many, who were forced to leave the old pueblo near the mission, relocated to small plots several blocks north of the church (and Alameda Avenue) to a scattered village that became known as “El Barrio de los Indios” (“The Neighborhood of the Indians”).
"Old Ysleta Pueblo, 1865" © Map adapated from 1897 Cattle Trespass MapThe Tribe refused to die, even after their lands had been illegally seized and they were forced into poverty. The Tribal Council continued to function. The Tigua still attended ceremonies and meetings in Tusla in the barrio. They celebrated San Antonio day each year on June 13th. They made sacred pilgrimages to Hueco Tanks, Cerra Alto and the Guadalupe Salt Flats. They hunted deer and rabbits in the deserts, mountains and valleys. Some local ranchers permitted the Tigua to hunt on the old tribal hunting grounds and to gather clay and temper for pottery as well as red ochre for ceremonial use.
based on 1852 José Salazar y Larrequi International Boundary Map and
1919 U.S. Army Air Force Aerial Map of Ysleta. Map (above image)
Produced by Nicholas P. Houser & Perry I. Quinto Houser
State and Federal Recognition
In the 1960’s, with the advent of the Civil Rights era, there was a growing national awareness that the Tigua of Ysleta del Sur Pueblo were entitled to be recognized by the State of Texas and the Federal Government as a sovereign Indian Tribe. In 1967, the Tribe was formally recognized by the Federal Government, which transferred trusteeship to the State of Texas. In 1987 the State relinquished its trusteeship to the Federal Government.
|"Celebrating Tribal Recognition by the State of Texas, c. 1968" |
Front left to right: Trinidad Granillo, War Chief, with Tigua Tribal Drum, standing next to Miguel Pedraza, tribal member, and Crawford Martin, Texas State Attorney General. Rear left to right: José Granillo (Tribal Chief), Joe Sierra and Pablo Carbajal, tribal members. Courtesy of Ysleta del Sur Archives