“I went down to San Elizario for a party of the teachers’ union,” he says. “Jack Salem, who was news director for Channel 4, started talking about how they needed a lawyer to help these Indians.” “I’d never heard of them,” Diamond says. “I thought, the government takes care of Indians.” But Salem persuaded Diamond to go meet tribe member Pablo Silvas, who also said the Tigua needed a lawyer to help get government recognition. Diamond met a second time with Silvas “and two other old men. They looked very Indian to me, but hell, I didn’t know.” Diamond called Bernard Fontana, a University of Arizona anthropologist, for help. “Of course I had to get a white guy to tell me these were Indians,” says Diamond. “We arranged to meet at the chief’s house. This house had a dirt floor, no windows, a ladder to the roof, a shrine, and paper bags full of medicine. And there was a rooster outside in a cage.” After the two of them had left, Diamond queried the scholar: ‘Dr. Fontana, are these Indians?’ And he said, that is the best Indian museum I’ve ever been in my life.” According to Fontana, the beat-up white rooster was in keeping with a now-extinct tradition, in which the chief keeps a caged eagle in front of his house. Over the course of more than thirty years, Diamond has amassed what he calls “the best archive there is of an Indian group” much of it now housed at the U.T. Center for American History whose 30,000 pieces include explorers’ accounts, Spanish surveys, nineteenth-century monographs, extensive chronologies, and newspaper articles. Persuading Texas to declare the Tigua an Indian Tribe, in 1967, and getting Congress to do the same a year later, was only the beginning. Diamond has continued to file claims on behalf of the Tigua. Through him, the tribe has asserted title claims to much of El Paso, and aboriginal usage rights to six counties Hudspeth, Culberson, Jeff Davis, Brewster, Presidio, and El Paso in all, an area in excess of 21,000 square miles. Within the same downtown El Paso building where Diamond works, seven floors above his firm’s suite, is the office of Jim Speer, attorney for the El Paso County Water Improvement District Number 1. The Tigua sued the water district this spring, seeking control of a large portion of the county’s water system. “There’s a saying around here that God made the world, but Tom Diamond made the Tigua Indians,” says Speer. Diamond has, at least, established one version of Tigua history, and because all Diamond’s lawsuits have been filed in Federal Judge Lucius Bunton’s Pecos court, known for its “rocket docket,” the defendants have just a few months to try to counter years of research. \(One rather strenuous sentence in Speer’s answer to Diamond’s complaint reads, “Alternatively, if Plaintiff ever established any aboriginal right, which is denied, Defendant denies that the United States has never extinguished such aboriginal right, because, in fact, the United States has extinguished any such right, if it ever existed \(which is not admitted A Torn Diamond The point of all the Tigua’s lawsuits, Speer suggests, is not actually to possess all of West Texas, but to use the claims as leverage to buy land on favorable terms and annex it to the reservation. The tribe, for example, sued officials of the Texas Department of Transportation after it heard the department would seek bids from prospective buyers for a small piece of land near the casino. The tribe has offered to settle the suit by buying the land at “fair market value” that is, without bidding. “They’re buying more and more land,” says Speer, “and [the Tigua hope] it all becomes reservation.” To Diamond, criticisms of the Tigua from George Bush or anyone else are simply the latest in a centuries-long series of attempts to deny the Indians their due. Before white people showed up, “Texas had more Indians than any other state in the Union,” he says. “The name of the game here has always been, get rid of the Indians, all the Indians.” After all, the governor, as the Tigua are fond of saying, oversees a slot machine with 10,000 terminals: the state lottery. The thrust of Diamond’s argument, that Bush is beating up on the Indians for political purposes, seems accurate enough. Unless the Governor manages to shut down the casino at once, however, the tribe won’t need to play the downtrodden victim. At long last, the Tigua or is it Tigua, Inc.? have more than just right on their side. BEFORE WHITE PEOPLE SHOWED UP, “TEXAS HAD MORE INDIANS THAN ANY OTHER STATE IN THE UNION,” DIAMOND SAYS. “THE NAME OF THE GAME HERE HAS ALWAYS BEEN, GET RID OF THE INDIANS, ALL THE INDIANS.” Karen Olsson 12 THE TEXAS OBSERVER JULY 3, 1998
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