Tigua Cultural Affiliation with Alamo Mountain and Otero Mesa

 
Petroglyphs on Alamo Mountain.
Petroglyphs on Alamo Mountain.

Viewshed Depiction by Mark D. Willis
John A. Peterson and Associates, Inc.
By Dr. John A. Peterson 

The Tigua Tribe of Ysleta del Sur Pueblo has a significant, long term, cultural, spiritual and historical affiliation with the landscapes of the Otero Mesa and Alamo Mountain, and as such have legal standing and concerns in consideration of oil and gas leasing and development on U.S. Bureau of Land Management lands in southern New Mexico.  Ancestral puebloan territory of the Tigua Tribe includes the Otero Mesa as well as the Salinas and Rio Abajo regions of New Mexico from where they migrated following the Pueblo Revolt in 1680, and, since then, the area of El Paso and West Texas as well as southern New Mexico.  Legal standing for Tigua affiliation with these areas is based on land grants from the King of Spain and the Republic of Mexico, and more recently, the Tigua Tribe has been federally recognized by the United States Government.  Their land claims include the Ysleta del Sur grant in Ysleta, Texas, as well as the more expansive Rancho de Ysleta Grant which extends from the Franklin Mountains eastward to the Guadalupe Mountains, south into northern Chihuahua, and north into the Alamo Mountain and Otero Mesa area.  The Tigua Tribe has historically and continues to practice ritual and sacred engagement with the region.  This is demonstrated by oral testimony and oral history as well as archaeological discoveries.  The documentation is included in several volumes of tribal history and testimony which is available in public repositories in Texas and New Mexico.

Various images appear on Alamo Mountain.

Various images appear on Alamo Mountain.

I have been a consulting archaeologist to the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo for the past twelve years and have also coordinated alternative energy studies through funding from the Environmental Protection Agency.  Many members of the Tribe have been my students in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at UTEP, and several remain as friends and colleagues.  I have focused my own archaeological and anthropological research on the El Paso region since 1991 and much of that effort has included intensive study of the Proto-historic and Spanish and Mexican colonial periods in the region, as well as contemporary analysis of culture, environment and development processes in El Paso.  I have closely collaborated with Dr. Rick Hendricks and Nick Houser, Tribal historical consultants, in various historical research projects since 1991.  From this association and these involvements I have direct and extensive knowledge of the Tigua Tribe and their history, archaeological background and contemporary ethnology.  My research supports many of the knowledge claims made formally and informally by the Tribe, and also affirms their deep sense of indigenous identity and long historical connection to native peoples and lifeways in the American Southwest.  The historical and archaeological record of the region clearly supports the puebloan affiliation of the Tigua Tribe of Ysleta del Sur Pueblo with pueblos in the Rio Abajo, including Ysleta Pueblo, Socorro Pueblo, and the Salinas Pueblos in the southern Manzano Mountains of New Mexico, and their migration to the El Paso region en masse following the Pueblo Revolt of 1680.  The record also clearly supports their tenacious maintenance of tribal and indigenous identity throughout the periods of Spanish, Mexican, Texas and American colonization in the region.  Archaeological, ethnohistoric and ethnographic investigations also support the genetic and ideational maintenance of indigenous ethnicity, as well as their deep and long-standing connection to the larger physical and spiritual landscape of the West Texas and southern New Mexico region around El Paso, Texas.  Members of the Tigua Tribe relate that they still conduct hunting and ritual activities in Otero Mesa and Alamo Mountain as they did when children under the tutelage of their parents and grandparents.  This knowledge has been transmitted for generations by elders to youth in the Tigua tradition.

Roughly 90% of all the petroglyphs on Alamo Mountain are not formally documented.

Roughly 90% of all the petroglyphs on Alamo Mountain are not formally documented.

My research also considers the acculturation and transformation of Tigua lifeways and identity as a product of colonization and post-colonial processes.  During the Spanish period many significant shifts occurred, not least of which was their imposed migration.  Ceramic forms and technology shifted from middle Rio Grande puebloan traditions to the adoption of new clay and temper materials as well as new forms such as comales, candlesticks, cups and platos in response to the demand for European forms and styles.  Red on brown decorated vessels integrated what has been interpreted as European heraldic emblems as well as other traditional puebloan designs.  There was a shift from household production to commercial production at least as early as the 18th century, and by the 19th century Tigua potters were traveling to trade fairs such as those at Carrizal in northern Chihuahua to sell their wares.  The distinctive sand-tempered earthenwares of the Ysleta del Sur and Piro pueblos of El Paso are a marker for puebloan pottery production in the region and they are widely distributed, from the military sites such as Fort Quitman, in the assemblages from Spanish places such as Carrizal, and throughout the network of trails and sites in the Hueco Bolson and the Rio Grande valley north and south from El Paso.  Ysleta brownware is ubiquitous in the region around Ysleta, Texas from the period 1680 to the early 1900s.  Jack Hedricks documented the making of Ysleta brownware pottery by Tigua women potters up to the 1950s.  The gathering of clay and temper from the arroyos in the escarpment above the pueblo was also recorded by Hedrick.  Sherds from the type can be found along the Ysleta-Hueco Tanks historical road, in the Hueco Bolson and from the Otero Mesa and Alamo Mountain which documents the dispersion of distinctly Tigua artifacts throughout the region and in the area of the proposed gas and oil leases.

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