The Tigua Indians of the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo in El Paso, Texas, have suffered back to back losses within a month’s time.
In June, Francisco Holguin, elected T’aikabede (spiritual leader) of the Pueblo in 2010, walked on at age 96. A T’aikabede, in addition to spiritual duties, serves a life term on the tribal council.
Holguin was one of the first Tigua Indians to receive a high school diploma when he graduated from Ysleta High School.
Serving in the U.S. Army Air Corps in World War II at Normandy and other locations in France, Holguin was the most decorated WWII veteran of the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo, with seven Bronze Stars.
His wife, Manuela, has walked on, but he leaves three sons, nine grandchildren, seven great-grandchildren, and four great-great grandchildren.
Less than a month later, the Pueblo lost a great friend when Tom Diamond walked on at age 94. The American Indian Law Section of the State Bar of Texas gives an annual public service award named after Diamond, who was always a “go to” wise man for lawyers representing Indians anywhere in Texas. He was primarily known for his service to the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo.
Looking back on his life and career last year, Diamond told the El Paso Times, “If I had to pick something in my life that was really worthwhile, I’d say it was working with the Tigua Indians, giving them a chance to survive…”
The Tiguas of Ysleta del Sur, kidnapped residents of the Isleta Pueblo near modern Albuquerque, arrived at El Paso del Norte after the Pueblo Revolt in 1680 ejected the Spanish from what is now New Mexico. They founded their Pueblo in 1682.
The Spanish king recognized the Indian property in 1751. The Pueblo finally became part of the United States with the rest of Texas in 1845. The Tiguas were the last tribe caught up in the federal termination policy in 1968.
In 1966, Tom Diamond’s book, The Tigua Indians of El Paso, was published by the National Congress of American Indians. Diamond also edited several volumes of the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo Archives and published two works of fiction, Moon Spell and Apache Tears.
Tom Diamond leaves his wife, Carolyn, his son, Jack, as well as three grandchildren, and eight great-grandchildren.
In light of occupying their property long before the U.S. or Texas, it would seem that regaining federal recognition for the Tigua Indians would be a slam dunk. It was not.
Francisco Holguin in the community and Tom Diamond in the halls of Congress lived through years of struggle before federal recognition was reestablished in 1987. A provision in the bill demanded by the Texas Congressional delegation took away the Pueblo’s sovereign gaming rights, which allowed Texas to shut down the Speaking Rock Casino by federal court order and touched off a legal fight that continues.
The Tigua battle for survival, economic and cultural, goes on. Francisco Holguin and Tom Diamond were veterans of that battle and they will be missed.