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Isleta Pueblo

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The name of two pueblos of the ancient Tigua tribe, of remote Shoshoncan stock. The older and principal is on the west bank of the Rio Grande about twelve miles below Albuquerque, New Mexico. The other, an offshoot from the first and sometimes distinguished as Isleta del Sur (Isleta of the South), is on the Texas side of the Rio Grande, a few miles below El Paso. The original Isleta (i.e. islet) was so named by the Spaniards from its position on a tongue of land projecting into the stream; the native name, Shiewhibak , seems to refer to a knife used in connection with a certain ceremonial foot race. It was first entered by the Spanish commander, Coronado in 1540, and again in 1582-3 by Espejo while trying to ascertain the fate of Father Rodriguez and two other Franciscan missionaries who had been murdered by Indians in the vicinity a year earlier. Before 1629 it had become the seat of the Franciscan mission of San Antonio. At a later period it received many refugees from outlying pueblos abandoned in consequence of Apache raids, until at the outbreak of the great Pueblo revolt in 1680 it may have numbered 2000 souls. Owing to the large number of Spaniards in the pueblo at the time they were not molested in the general massacre, but the natives, after having made submission to Governor Otermin the following year, secretly withdrew to join the enemy, in consequence of which Otermin burned the pueblo, carrying all the remaining Indians, 400 in all, to El Paso where he colonized them in the new town of Isleta del Sur, re-establishing at the same time the mission of San Antonio. In 1692-3 Vargas reconquered the Pueblo country and mission work was soon after resumed. About the year 1710, or a few years later, the original Isleta was reoccupied by the Tigua, and a new mission established there under the name of San Agustin. With the growth of the Spanish population the importance of the Indian missions correspondingly decreased. In 1780-1 one-third of the whole Pueblo population was swept away by smallpox, in consequence of which most of the missions were abandoned, but that at Isleta continued to exist under Spanish and Mexican rule for fifty years longer, when it became virtually a secular church. The pueblo now has a population of about 1100, rating third among the Pueblo towns, and has both a government and a Catholic day-school. In culture, social organization and ceremonial forms the inhabitants resemble the Pueblo generally. In Isleta del Sur the few remaining inhabitants, although very much Mexicanized still keep up some Indian forms and retain their native language.


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