Heritage, Volume 10, Number 4, Fall 1992 Page: 19
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West Texas businessman Bill Wright offers this
photographic tribute to the Tigua Indians. The
tribe has been continuously living in Texas since
1680, longer than any other ethnic group.
I n 1680, Indians of the pueblos
along the Rio Grande in New Mexico
grew weary of the Spanish occupation
and revolted. In a protracted series of
battles, the outnumbered Spanish soldiers
and the priests of the missions and
other civilians retreated south following
the Rio Grande.
As they travelled they gathered into
their number, perhaps unwillingly, Tiguaspeaking
Indians from the pueblo at Isleta
near present-day Albuquerque.
When the refugees arrived in the area
of present-day El Paso, the Spanish established
a new settlement for the Indians
and gave it the name Yselta del Sur to
distinguish it from the New Mexico
pueblo. Twelve years later, when the
Spanish reconquered the pueblos, some
of the Tigua returned to theirNew Mexico
home - but many remained.
The Indians of Yselta del Sur continued to
inhabit the area, continuously living in Texas
longer than any other ethnic group.
The clash of many cultures has had a great
impact on the Tigua tribe since that early
relocation. Today they attempt to instill longdormant
traditions in their children and their
community, even as they face political and
economic realities that threaten to submerge
The Tigua today find themselves passing
through a time in the life of their tribe that
will fundamentally change their culture. Visually
documenting this cultural transition is
crucial for all persons, as well as helping the
Tiguas interpret their important role in a
Two years ago, I stood in a small ceramic
factory with Miguel Pedraza, who was then
governor of the tribe. He showed me the
beautiful pottery with its designs that the
Tigua sell in their cultural center. The pots
were hand-painted by two Tigua women.
"Are you teaching the young men and
women of the tribe how to paint the traditional
designs?" I asked Mike.
"We try, but it is so difficult," he said.
"There are so many distractions. Last year,
we had a young high school student who
was a very talented artist, but he became
interested in tattoos. All his pots began to
be painted like tattoos, and we had to
throw them all away."
Another time when I came to photograph
and take oral histories from members
of the tribe, they were at yet another crossroads.
The Texas Indian Commission had
been abolished, and the Tigua had been
transferred to the Bureau of Indian Affairs
in Washington, D.C. -- another milestone
in the life of the tribe.
Still there is little documentation of the
tribe's 300-year-old history
since Coronado. In
their cultural center, visited
by thousands of curious
tourists each year,
there are no materials to
explain the journey of
these forgotten people.
These photographs are
my effort to contribute to
and to honor this resiliant
Wright is on the Board of
1^ & Directors of the Texas Historical
Editor's Note: A book of
Wright's Tigua Indian pho3
X 9 0 tographs will be available in
the late spring or summer
Ad ~ from Texas Western Press.
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Volume 10, Number 4, Fall 1992, periodical, Autumn 1992; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45421/m1/19/: accessed July 26, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.