THE TIGUA OF YSLETA DEL SUR PUEBLO
The Native Americans living in the El Paso/Juarez region in 1581 when the Spaniards first arrived were labeled "Mansos" (Tame People) or "Sumas". It is possible that these were in fact two different cultural groups rather than one single group. Within the next century, Comanches and Apaches along with drought pushed Jumano, Piro, and Tompiro Indians into the area. Descendants of these peoples still resided in the area when during the 1680 Pueblo Revolt many puebloans headed South to seek refuge. In 1682, in an attempt by the Spaniards to re conquer New Mexico, 385 Tiwa (Tigua) Indians of the Isleta Pueblo were brought to El Paso as prisoners. This same year the Piros and Tompiros became residents of Senecu (South side of the Rio Grande) and Socorro (on the North Side). The Tiguas pueblo was named Isleta del Sur (Istleta of the South), also on the North side of the Rio Grande, just South of present day El Paso, Texas. However, in the mid 1960's, the growth of El Paso threatened the loss of their homes due to increased property taxes. On April 12, 1968, President Lyndon Johnson signed into law a bill that extended federal recognition to the tribe, thus proclaiming Ysleta del Sur an Indian Reservation, exempt from property taxes. As of April, 2008, Ysleta del Sur's population was an estimated 1,615 people owning 75 acres.
The Tiwa Language belongs to the Kiowa-Tanoan Family that includes Tiwa, Tewa, Towa and Piro and Tompiro. The closest relatives of the Tigua of Ysleta Del Sur Pueblo are the Tiwa Indians of Isleta, Sandia, Taos, and Picuris Pueblos. The Spanish spelling was retained by the Tigua of Ysleta del Sur Pueblo.
The pottery from Tigua/Ysleta Del Sur did not start making pottery for the tourist trade until around 1970. For the most part, the pottery is produced in a non-traditional way using a pottery wheel (wheel thrown) or ceramic molds (slip-cast), although on occassion you may find some hand coiled vessels. Commercial paints are mostly used and the pottery is fired in an electric kiln.
A Guide to Contemporary Southwest Indians
By Bernard L. Fontana, 1999