Early Accounts & Bibliography
Early Accounts of Ysleta Pueblo
Surveyors, Civil and Military Officials, Ethnologists & Historians
By Nicholas P. Houser, MPH, MA, June 15, 2006
Note: Biographical sketches of observers and historian concerning
Tigua Military History. See: “Early Accounts of Ysleta del Sur Pueblo”,
by N.P. Houser, in: Ysleta del Sur Pueblo Archives, Vol. 5, pages 3-173.
The accounts in Volume 5 (Ysleta del Sur Pueblo Archives) of Ysleta del Sur Pueblo are by no means complete. They include reports by government officials, travelers, and ethnologists. These accounts, usually first-hand observations, contribute to the understanding of Tigua cultural history. The selected accounts in this volume include the reports of Pedro José de la Fuente (1765, Spanish military captain), James S. Calhoun (1847, Indian Agent), Lieutenant W.H.C. Whiting (1849, surveyor), Captain John C. Bourke (1881, U.S. Army), George W. Baylor (1879-85, Texas Ranger), James B. Gillett (1879-1881, Texas Rangers), John Phillips (1931, Tigua descendant), and Jay W. Sharp (article on the 1837 Hueco Tanks Battle).
Pioneering ethnologists, whose accounts were selected for Volume 5 of the archival series, include H.F. C. Ten Kate (1886), James Mooney (1897), and Jesse Walter Fewkes (1901). Other important observers, although not included, were John Russell Bartlett (1850-1852), Adolph F. Bandelier (1883, 1888-89), and John P. Harrington (1909). Since Fewkes’ visit (1901), Ysleta Pueblo received limited anthropological attention until the 1960’s. The contributions of pioneering ethnologists provide an important baseline for research and study. The following is a short resume of each individual whose accounts are reproduced in this publication.
“I made the acquaintance with all the Indians, people were polite and friendly… I made acquaintance of all the important Indians to begin with the gobernador (governor), José María Durán. The governor was a magnificent old Indian with a tall figure and long raven-black hair” (H.F.C. Ten Kate, Jr., Dutch Ethnologist, Dec. 27, 1882).
“The little hamlet of Isleta, however, originally a village of Pueblo Indians, as they are called, holds its own well; the slender remnant of some old Aztec tribe, the tradition still alive among them that one day their great Montezuma will return to lift the yoke and redress their wrongs, cultivating patiently their farms, and retaining to the last their animosity to the Mexicans. These, of greater heart than their masters, meet the Apache with his own weapons, and keep themselves inviolate. Still holding to their own dialects and to many old customs, and but half-Christianized, their worship a rude mixture of Catholic and Pagan rites, their numbers are fast dwindling away, and but few years will pass before the last altar fire of their race will be extinguished” (Lt. W.H.C. Whiting, US Army, 1849).
“Great herds of antelope then roved over the plains, and we hunted them every year as soon as the cold season began; they, and deer that were plentiful in the foothills, furnished us with meat through the winter, and plenty of buckskin” (Recollections of old chief Manuel Ortega, Tigua Cacique, as told to John Phillips, 1931).
“Many of the Tiwa [Tigua] have served in the army as scouts against the Apache, and among the names of some twenty men recorded by the writer several have discharge papers setting forth the value of their services; others were killed while in the service of the United States. None of the former receives a pension or rations. They have no resident agents or missionary, and, although poor, they are industrious, self-respecting, law-abiding citizens” (J. Walter Fewkes, Ethnologist, Smithsonian, Dec. 14, 1901 visit to Ysleta Pueblo).
“He [Juan Severiano Gonzáles, acting governor of the Tigua Indians] said that their houses belonged to the women – an examination showed that they had the same rules of property and descent as among the other pueblos. The pueblo now has 36 “cabezas de familia” [heads of family] and four widows. – The old man complained that the Americans and Mexicans were crowding into their beautiful valley and taking up, without any recompense, land belonging to the people of the pueblo” (Capt. John G. Bourke, Visit to Ysleta Pueblo, November 11, 1881).
“At the very first volley the grand old Indian, Simón Olguín, was killed, as were five or six of the Negro cavalry [Tenth Cavalry, Buffalo Soldiers]. The remainder of the soldiers thereupon fled, but the four Pueblo scouts took to the rocks and fought until they had routed the Apaches…” (James B. Gillett, recollections of the battle of Sierra Vieja, June 11, 1881, near Valentine, Texas).