October 24, 1999
By Christina Ramírez / El Paso Times
Holding a bundle of reeds in his weathered hands, almost as if he had emerged from a cotton field, Cacique José Granillo sat before the House Indian Affairs Subcommittee in Washington, D.C.
It was Aug. 1, 1967, and Jose sat at a table, stoically describing why the Tigua Indians should be granted tribal status.
He was joined by his brother Trinidad, the Tigua war chief; their cousin, Miguel Granillo Pedraza, the Tigua governor; and Tom Diamond, the Tigua lawyer.
Of the three Indians, Pedraza was the only one who spoke English, but it was the chief whom the subcommittee addressed.
"José was dressed in dungarees, a worn shirt and khaki trousers," Diamond said. "Here was this guy who didn't speak English and was dressed so simply, asking for something so simple."
A U.S. representative told the interpreter, "Ask the chief what he wants us to do for him."
"The translator asked José, and José replied in Spanish, `There's nothing you can do for me. You can help my people,' " Diamond said, smiling as he recalled the moment. "So the chairman rephrased the question and asked, `What can we do for your people?' and the chief replied, `Give them water.' "
Diamond met the Granillos five years earlier when the Tiguas, unable to pay their taxes, faced eviction from their homes.
Diamond credits the Granillos with getting him involved in the fight to get the tribe recognized by the U.S. government, recognition that came with rare speed.
The House Indian Affairs Subcommittee approved on the spot a bill by Rep. Richard C. White of the El Paso district that made the Tigua Indians an official Indian tribe.
As a result of that trip to Washington, the Tiguas became the first new tribe to achieve federal recognition in more than half a century - a victory that allowed them to apply for federal grants to help pay for indoor plumbing.
The Tiguas would finally get their running water, and the victory cleared the way for the federal recognition of other tribes.
Although the federal recognition came in 1967, José Granillo - and his family - seemed well suited to the battle long before there was a battle.
Census reports and oral tradition place Granillos at the forefront of Tigua history, whether they were acting as guides for the U.S. Army or marrying an El Paso mayor.
"Tomàs Granillo was a scout for the United States Cavalry and even the Texas Rangers," said Joe Sierra, a tribal judge and former governor. "There was even a Granillo married to an El Paso mayor in the 1800s. There's a lot of history there."
Among the Granillos listed as scouts in the 1860s and 1870s were Tomàs, Aniseto, Encarnación, Fabrian and Juan Granillo.
"These men and other Tiguas, especially the Olguines, were considered among the best scouts the U.S. Army and Texas Rangers had ever seen," El Paso anthropologist Nick Houser said.
An Andrés Granillo is listed in the 1860 census as a servant in the Magoffin house.
Petitions of the late 1800s are scattered with Granillos, or Graníos (an alternate spelling), demanding justice and putting themselves on the political forefront.
"A lot of people don't think they were very politically active," Houser said, "but Indians back then were, as evident from the petitions."
José Granillo, who benefitted from the political activism of his ancestors, served as cacique, the spiritual and religious leader, of the Tigua Indians from 1966 up to his death in 1981. The Granillo family had a tradition of being cacique.
José became cacique after his brother Tomàs died in 1966. Tomàs was elected cacique after the death of their father, Cacique Aniseto Granillo, in 1957.
Known as patriarch of the tribe, José was the only tribal leader elected for life.
Following a traditional four-day period of mourning after José died, the adult male members of the tribe selected Trinidad to succeed his brother, continuing the Granillo tradition of leading the tribe.
Fact and folklore
Although legend and oral stories tell of a Luis Granillo coming to El Paso del Norte with the original cabildo during the Pueblo Revolt in 1680, census reports and other records indicate a Granillo signed a petition in 1853 - the first official documentation of a Granillo in the area. Tomàs Granillo signed a petition to the bishop regarding bullying tactics used to take land away from Native Americans.
Sierra said folklore links the Granillos to the building of the Ysleta Mission, but because names were changed and most Indians could not read or write, it is nearly impossible to prove.
Like Sierra, most tribal members can claim to be related to a Granillo one way or another.
"The Granillo family ties span across almost every member of the tribe, whether they are Candelarias, Pedrazas or Olguines," said Sierra, whose grandfather is the brother of Aniseto Granillo. "Everyone in the tribe is related in one way or another to a Granillo. We're like a huge family."
Sierra was 20 when he became alguacil, or sheriff, of the tribe. At the time, José Granillo was cacique.
"I was fortunate enough to come in very young to the tribal council," Sierra said. "I remember asking this 69-, 70-year-old chief all kinds of questions about life, and he would give me little lessons in bits and pieces. They taught me a lot of things that you will never find in books. They were born with this knowledge. It was a special gift given to them by the good spirits, and they used it to guide them to what was good for our people."
While José never married and had no children, Miguel Pedraza Jr. said Trinidad had eight children, but disclosure of a genealogy or family tree is against tribal law.
"In a tribe, everyone is a member of the same family," Houser said. "There's not supposed to be a division amongst members as to what family they belong to."
The rich and religious culture of the Tiguas is something the Granillos have always held dear, said Pedraza, whose father accompanied José and Trinidad on that fateful trip to Washington.
"I remember going to the old barrio when I was younger to visit Trinidad and José," Pedraza said. "I learned chants, ceremonial dances, but none of it was directly taught. It was something you observed in them."
Pedraza is now regarded as the patriarch of the Granillo family because most Granillos are too young to be politically active in the tribe. His paternal grandfather was Luz Pedraza, who was killed in a gun battle with Texas Rangers. Luz was raised by his grandfather Bensalado Granillo, an Indian scout for the U.S. Cavalry in the 1880s and the last war captain of the Senecú Piro tribe, which settled across the Rio Grande from Ysleta in the 1600s.
"Most of the Granillos are younger, and it takes time to become active, especially when there are people who shy away from Indian ways because of (pressure from white) society," Pedraza said. "That's where the Granillo name may start to fade a little ... but speaking for a small group, I can say there is still a small group of traditionalists who keep with Aniseto's teachings."
The elder Pedraza, who died in 1988, was quoted more than once saying he did not like what the future held for his people, and he feared the Tigua language, culture and identity would be lost eventually.
Among the traditions the younger Pedraza said he learned by watching his family is the sensitivity that must be maintained for nature and tradition.
Keeping traditions alive
Sierra said the Granillos tried to maintain the health and welfare of their people and the Earth to which they are connected.
"One of Cacique José's proudest moments was (in 1968) when he saw his children moving into homes with running water," Sierra said. "That was his dream.
"I am honored to have been there to see them put the seed in the ground and nurture it so it would start growing," Sierra said. "It has started growing, and now the younger generation must take care of it."
Sierra said among the many lessons he learned from his relatives and ancestors was what it means to be an Indian.
"It's more than blood; Being Indian is in your soul, not in your head," Sierra said. "You can read all the books you want, but it's something that comes from the soul."
But Sierra admits that the way of the Granillo caciques is fading fast with technology and other 20th century practices.
"Even way back, there were just a few Indians that kept the traditions going. You could count them on your fingers," he said. "But today with a bigger tribe, it's even harder. There are many Indians out there who don't know what it is to really be Indian."
Tigua time line
·Oct. 12, 1680: The Pueblo Revolt, an uprising of Indians against Spaniards, begins in New Mexico, Ysleta and Socorro, the area now known as the Lower Valley. Some Tiguas (the original spelling was "Tiwas") fled to the El Paso area during the revolt. Tiguas remaining faithful to Spanish Franciscans fled an Indian revolt in Isleta, N.M., coming south with the friars who founded the Ysleta Mission, according to historians. Some of the Tiguas went willingly, some fleeing war zones. Others were captives.
·1682: Socorro/Ysleta Mission founded; it is the oldest building in Texas.
·1730-50: Hacienda de Tiburcios founded; it is the forerunner of San Elizario.
·1740: Ysleta Mission demolished by Rio Grande floodwater.
·1744: Mission rebuilt.
·1773-74: First San Elizario presidio built near Porvenir, Mexico.
·1870s: El Paso is incorporated; Tiguas' land lost to settlers.
·1878: Ysleta protests El Paso's dumping of raw sewage into the Rio Grande.
·1906: Ysleta Mission church burned when it catches fire. Only the walls are left standing.
·1908: Restored Ysleta Mission is rededicated.
·1924: By Act of Congress, all Indians are declared to be citizens of the United States, gaining the right to vote for the first time.
·1936: Ysleta Indians make President Franklin Roosevelt "honorary chief."
·1956: José Cisneros becomes "honorary Tigua Artista."
·1957: Cacique Aniseto Granillo dies. Tomàs Granillo elected cacique.
·1966: Cacique Tomàs Granillo dies from traffic accident injuries. José Granillo is elected cacique.
·1967: Tigua Indians receive tribal status; reservation is established.
·1977: Ray Apodaca, who grew up in Tortugas area of Las Cruces and is an enrolled member of Tigua Indian Tribe, takes over as superintendent.
·1981: José Granillo dies. Trinidad Granillo elected cacique.
·1992: Apodaca fired as superintendent.
·1993: Apodaca removed from tribal roles because he's part of the San Juan de Guadalupe de Los Tortugueños, who left the El Paso area around 1910.
·1993: Speaking Rock Casino opens.
·1994: Lt. Gov. Manny Silvas banned from the tribe's election over allegations that he misused funds while in office. His attempts to get in the tuh-la (the place where the tribal members meet to cast their votes) spark a melee in the street outside, which is broken up by El Paso and tribal police. His brother Marty Silvas refuses to return tribe's sacred drum.
·1995: Both Silvases are expelled. Bureau of Indian Affairs Southern Pueblo Agency in Albuquerque is called to resolve election dispute. Apodaca reinstated.
·1997: All tribal members are asked to show proof that they are Tigua. Those who are deemed ineligible are banished from the rolls and the reservation.