To Rain Dance or to Pray for Rain, neither is working
By Joe Olvera ©, 2011
From free income tax preparation and a youth-based financial literacy program, to becoming the majority owners of the El Paso Diablos Baseball team, the Tigua Indians have come a long way, baby. And now, even in today’s modern times, one of their patented rain dances might be just the ticket to end this drought that has El Pasoans worried over the lack of moisture. But, the Tiguas aren’t in a dancing mood just now, as they prepare to bring back to life Cohen Stadium and, of course, the Diablos.
Even though Texas Governor Rick Perry passed a resolution calling for his fellow Texans to pray for rain, there haven’t been too many results. So, are the Tiguas the last hope to open the floodgates from the sky? Only time will tell. The origins of the rain dance stems from the days of the Arizona relocation, when thousands of native tribes were relocated to reservations. Certain religious ceremonies were banned by the federal government, including the Sun Dance. A tribe known as the Winndigohen told the feds that what they were doing was not the Sun Dance, but, was, instead a Rain Dance. This helped to prevent federal intervention and prosecution.
In case the Tiguas have forgotten how to do a Rain Dance, here are a few pointers:
*Never do a rain dance on a hill;
*Make sure you have a lot of room so you don’t run into anything;
*Spin around in a clockwise direction;
*Make up your rain chant. It should be rhythmical and easy to say fast;
*Yell your rain chant while spinning around in circles;
*If you are trying to get rid of rain, spin in a counterclockwise direction and say
your chant backwards.
Note also that feathers and turquoise are requisite (or any sort of blue shade). The feathers and turquoise symbolize rain and wind. Many oral traditions have also been passed down from generation to generation.
It could be, however, that if the Tiguas have not endeavored to do their Rain Dance, it could be because they are now the proud majority owners of the El Paso Diablos. It’s going to take more than rain dances to get the team back in shape, as well as much wampum to set Cohen Stadium back to its glory days. Known as the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo, the Tiguas are descendants of refugees from the Rio Abajo or lower Rio Grande pueblos who accompanied the Spanish to El Paso on their retreat from New Mexico during the Pueblo Revolt of 1680, The settlement established for them was named Ysleta del Sur to distinguish it from their former home in Isleta, New Mexico, near what is today Albuquerque.
Today, the Tigua live in a reservation about 12 miles from downtown El Paso, accessible by private vehicle, city bus or by a guided tour. The Ysleta Pueblo is the gateway to El Paso’s Mission Valley that includes the historic communities of Ysleta, Socorro, and San Elizario. These scenic villages include historic missions, old adobe buildings, informative museums and cultural centers. Located within close to 2,700 acres, the Ysleta del Sur’s Pueblo is held in trust by the United States Department of the Interior. Currently, there are 1,692 enrolled members who must have a blood quantum of 1/8 to qualify as Tiguas. U.S. Senator Silvestre Reyes, is working to change that quantum so that the tribe can continue to grow and to flourish, because it’s getting more and more difficult to find persons with the required blood quantum.
So, whether it’s Rick Perry’s proclamation asking people to pray, or whether it’s the Tigua’s fabled Rain Dance that will finally release water from the sky, El Paso and the rest of Texas must suffer through a drought unprecedented in its obstinacy. There have been a few showers, signifying the beginning of the monsoon – however it may be too little, too late for some of the state’s and the city’s needs.