The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 100, July 1996 - April, 1997

Southwestern Historical Quarterly

People of the Sun: The Tiguas of Ysleta.(San Antonio: The Institute of Texan Cul-
tures, 1992. Video, 56:27. $35.00.)
The Tiguas: Pueblo Indians of Texas. By Bill Wright. (El Paso: Texas Western Press,
1993. Pp. 161. Preface, foreword, notes. ISBN 0-87404-229-1. $40.00,
cloth.)
Independent in concept and execution, this video and book complement one
another so usefully as to warrant careful attention to both. Each reflects inten-
sive field work with the contemporary Tiguas. Enjoyable as well as informative,
they add up to an exceptionally well-balanced, long-overdue exposition of the
complex Tigua story.
The Tiguas of Ysleta del Sur, descended from Pueblos who came south with
Spanish refugees from the Pueblo Revolt in the 168os, fell under Texas jurisdic-
tion after the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, then virtually dropped out of sight
after El Paso land speculators despoiled them of their Spanish land grant in the
1870s. Under the aegis of the short-lived Texas Indian Commission, however,
the long-submerged Tigua community, still functioning around Mission Nuestra
Sefiora del Carmen on the southeastern rim of El Paso, recovered their legal
identity as a tribe in 1967. In 1968, the tribe also gained federal recognition,
which entitled them to trust status under the Bureau of Indian Affairs upon the
demise of the Texas Indian Commission.
The richly colored video, researched and coauthored by anthropologist Dan
Gelo, presents the Tigua story clearly enough to engage secondary-school audi-
ences, but with enough subtle ramifications to intrigue the most sophisticated of
viewers. Filmed in ancestral locales as well as present Ysleta, it is narrated principal-
ly by Tiguas, with some evidential detail explained by tribal attorney Tom Dia-
mond. The continuing interplay of traditional and contemporary lifeways is
stressed, with particular emphasis on ritual as key to community survival. More
subtly displayed are intricacies involved in perceptions and definitions of Indian
identity and tribal membership-insights applicable far beyond the case of Ysleta
del Sur.
Bill Wright's book is an extended photographic essay evoking the Tigua story
from "beginnings" to 1993, largely through his own, often striking, black-and-
white photographs of their contemporary community, supplemented by histori-
cal photographs from Tigua families and various archives. Many of the
photograph captions quote Tiguas' views of their world. Despite some inaccura-
cies of historical detail, the brief text is readable and informative, and its notes
supply useful references. Gelo wrote the graceful foreword, emphasizing the
Tiguas' position at cultural crossroads since the 168os, and listing demonstrable
cultural continuities, some of which date back 11,00o years in the region.
Rarely will students-or any aficionado of the Southwest-encounter a more
attractive and illuminating study in cross-cultural perspective than this video of-
fers, or more pertinent amplification than can be found in this book.

118

July

Austin

ELIZABETH A. H. JOHN

Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 100, July 1996 - April, 1997. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101218/. Accessed December 19, 2014.