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Old 03-10-2009, 07:26 PM   #1
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Articles compare Lumbee to Tiquas??????

I might not feel the same way some folks who commented on these articles do... but c'mon!! Ain't this a stretch of a comparison???? One thing that did tick me off though was the comment made that land could be put in trust and industries allowed to build their businesses there for tax exemption.... maybe he's not being specific enough and means Lumbee enterprisers but he does not state that and it sounds like he's going to let outsiders do so.
This is just article one from "day one".... links to the others are on the page.... I won't post all of them here, but here's the link.


FayObserver.com - Current Article Page

Road to recognition: Lumbees learn from travails of Texas tribe


By Venita Jenkins
Staff writer
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EL PASO, Texas — Whites mistook them for Mexicans.

The federal government thought they no longer existed.

But the Tigua Indians — also known as the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo — maintained their Indian culture and traditions for centuries in impoverished neighborhoods of east El Paso.

It wasn’t until they faced the threat of losing their homes to foreclosure in the 1960s that the Tiguas fought to be recognized by the federal government as an Indian tribe. For them, it was a matter of survival.

Nearly two thousand miles away, another Indian tribe — the Lumbee — is engaged in a similar battle.

At nearly 55,000 strong, the Lumbees are the largest Indian tribe east of the Mississippi River and the ninth-largest in the country. Members are scattered along the East Coast, but the largest concentration — about 40,000 people — is in Robeson, Hoke, Cumberland and Scotland counties.

Yet in the eyes of the federal government, the tribe is almost nonexistent.

Congress passed a bill in 1956 that recognized the Lumbees as American Indians, but it failed to provide benefits given to other tribes with the same status. The tribe has lost out on money for education, health care and economic development.


The quest for federal recognition is not just about money. It has become a matter of dignity and an effort to silence those who believe the Lumbees are not a real tribe.

They testified that like the Lumbees, the Tiguas had long been recognized by the state before Congress passed legislation to recognize the Texas tribe.

Unlike the Tiguas, the Lumbee tribe has not been able to obtain the federal status that would bring millions in aid for the tribe and remove the stigma of being second-class Indians.

The tribe has been close in recent years. The House passed a bill in June 2007 recognizing the tribe but the bill died in the Senate.

Now the Lumbees find themselves back at square one.

The Fayetteville Observer spent time with the Tigua Indians to see how that tribe has used the federal aid that comes with recognition to improve the lives of its members.

For the Tiguas, recognition has helped reclaim most of their tribal land and provide basic health care, educational opportunities and better housing for their members.

Gaining that recognition, however, took years of persistence.

A better way of life
Tucked between the busy roads of El Paso and a half-mile from the Mexican border lies the Tigua reservation. A marquee encased in stone announces to visitors that they are on the one-square-mile reservation.

Two streets lead to a cluster of dark brown adobe homes, the tribe’s first subdivision. Its most recent addition is apartment complexes for tribal elders. The subdivision provides housing to more than 100 Tigua families.

Four miles east of the old reservation is the tribe’s upscale subdivision of single-family homes and two-story adobe houses. The subdivision, which tribal members call the “New Res,” sits on 300 acres. It includes a multimillion-dollar wellness center and an education center for tribal members.

The living conditions for the Tiguas were drastically different more than 40 years ago.

A majority of the tribal members lived in one- or two-room adobe houses without electricity or running water. Nearly everyone in the tribe was facing foreclosure, and more than 50 percent of their tribal members lived in poverty.

“When I first met them, their living conditions were deplorable,” said Tom Diamond, the tribe’s lawyer for the past 40 years. “They were an impoverished Indian tribe that was ostracized by everybody. The Mexican population looked down on them, and the Anglo population didn’t know the difference between a Mexican and an Indian. They were in a hell of a mess.”

A small group of tribal members took it upon themselves to improve the tribe’s condition. They felt the only way to save their homes and reclaim their ancestral land was through federal recognition. Pablo Silvas was a leader of the effort.

Silvas gathered his family each summer and headed to Arizona to pick cotton. There, he would talk to other Indian tribes about what the Tiguas needed to do to become federally recognized, said Dora Beltran, Silvas’ daughter. It wasn’t until after the death of one of her siblings during one of the trips in 1964 that her father explained why they left home each summer.

“Little did I know that all that time, he was going to speak to other tribes in Arizona,” she recalled. “He found out how hard it was to get recognition.”

Beltran recalled the morning a group of people knocked on her parents’ door to look at their house. That was when her parents’ learned their home was in foreclosure because they had failed to pay taxes.

“They tried to get a lawyer, but no one would take the case,” Beltran said. “That is when they came across Tom Diamond. He believed that we were an Indian tribe and started working for them.”

Silvas and other tribal members met Diamond, who was in El Paso assisting in a political campaign. He took the tribe’s plight to heart.

“I became convinced that the tribe suffered a terrible injustice,” he said. “The state itself came in and stole their land. And so I became more determined to do something.”

The tribe had a land grant that dated to the 1680s. But that didn’t stop speculators and the state of Texas from taking the land. When the state incorporated the town of Ysleta, the tribe’s community, the Indians ended up with scraps of land here and there, Diamond said.

“They became homeless,” he said.

With the help of an anthropologist at the University of Arizona, Diamond and tribal members began to dig into the Tiguas’ history. Diamond learned that the Tiguas were once part of the Isleta Pueblo in New Mexico. The Spaniards encountered the tribe in 1540, he said. During the Spanish Revolt in 1680, the Spaniards enslaved a number of Indians and relocated them to what is now El Paso.

“So we were sort of left behind and were documented as a tribe that didn’t exist anymore,” said Carlos Hisa, the lieutenant governor of the tribe. “We managed to survive as a tribe and had to come back to prove it.”

The tribe had to undergo a test by tribal members from the Isleta Pueblo in New Mexico, Beltran said.

“They questioned us to find out whether we were really from the Isleta,” she said.

Tribal members from the Isleta Pueblo learned that the traditions practiced by the Tiguas were the same as those of the tribe in New Mexico, Beltran said.

Diamond knew that obtaining federal recognition for the Tiguas would be difficult. At that time, the U.S government wanted to end providing services for American Indians.

“They were terminating tribes all over the United States, and there we were trying to get a tribe recognized,” he said. “Everybody was opposed to it.”

With the help of supporters, Diamond and the tribe were able to get the Tiwa Act passed in 1967. The act recognized the tribe but denied its members benefits. The tribe fell under the responsibility of the state of Texas, not the federal government.

“The federal government threw us to the wolves,” said Joe Sierra, a tribal elder and a former governor of the Tigua tribe. “The federal government did not want the responsibility.”

Diamond said there was no way he could get the tribe under federal control.

“It was a ploy we used to avoid the problem that we had with the federal government being adamant about no longer recognizing tribes,” he said. “They didn’t want any new recognition of Indian tribes. It was easier to say, ‘Recognize them, but transfer the trust responsibility to Texas so you won’t have to worry about it.’


The state bought land for the tribe and set aside programs for education. Those programs gradually disappeared as the state decided it could no longer fund the tribe. It became increasingly difficult to get services from the state.

“They saw it as a charity,” Diamond said. “They didn’t see it as an investment in the oldest culture in Texas. This was a functioning tribe, a tribal government long before there was a Texas. But they saw it as a drain on their coffers.”

The first check the tribe received from Texas was for $35,000, said Sierra, a former governor.

“The next year was a little more, but we had to beg,” he said. “Each year we had to beg for help. Then the state asked, ‘When are you guys going to be self-sufficient?’ How could we, when we didn’t have the resources? Most of our land was gone. At that time, we had big problems with education and health.”

The tribe turned back to the federal government in desperation when it learned the state no longer had the money to provide services.

“By that time, the policy had changed and (the federal government) started admitting new tribes and stopped terminating tribes,” Diamond said. “So when the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo Restoration Act was passed in 1987, the climate was right in Washington to again help Indian people.”

The tribe was able to provide basic needs for its members when the 1987 bill was passed, said Hisa, the tribe’s lieutenant governor. There are 1,600 members of the Tigua tribe.

“When we were struggling, a lot of our tribal members were forced to leave because there wasn’t anything here. We were poor,” Hisa said. “A lot of them left to be migrant farm workers in California and Arizona. Those who did stick around fought for our way of life. Everything that needed to be done basically came out of their pockets. If it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t be here. With federal recognition came opportunities for our people, and those who left started to come back.”

**Share your thoughts: Discuss this story here.**

Staff writer Venita Jenkins can be reached at [email protected] or (910) 738-9158.
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