I designed this Ysleta Del Sur Pueblo 2022 Year-End Report for the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo (YDSP), a federally recognized Native American tribe in El Paso, Texas. The people are called Tigua, and their native language is Southern Tiwa. YDSP is the oldest community in Texas and the longest-running government in the state since the tribe’s establishment in 1683.
The 2022 Year-End Report features photos inspired by tintype and other vintage images I saw of the tribe in the Otis Aultman Collection and in the Cleofás Calleros Papers of the Special Collections Department of The University of Texas at El Paso Library.
The historic photos, many from the turn of the last century, reminded me of how many today perhaps still think of indigenous tribes of North America. However, they are not a people stuck in amber. The report casts aside ridiculous and false perceptions of Native Americans derived from the often-racist and stereotypical Cowboy and Western films of decades ago. It presents a very much living, thriving population.
What I will now call a “fun fact” about this Year-End Report, which was a harrowingly stressful situation for me at the time, is that the artist originally commissioned to do current-day tintypes for this publication unexpectedly dropped out. So, the main idea upon which this book’s concept was based fell upon me. I had to think fast and essentially learn how to “make” tintypes, albeit with Photoshop. In the end, this setback proved serendipitous, and I truly believe the report turned out better for it. That is, I was able to be more responsible and present at the photoshoots, taking some of the photos myself, and art directing them to capture the precise compositions I wanted. The result is a report that very intentionally juxtaposes vintage images of the past with tribal members today to both show clear connections and honor the tribe’s debt to these revered ancestors while also depicting the contemporary life of the tribe now—using new, not old technology.
My favorite pairing occurs on pages 48 and 49, where Tribal Police Officer Erika Avila is compared with a 1930s image of Tribal member Ramona Paiz. Avila stands confidently with her gun on her hip, in front of her squad car, while Paiz also stands fearless, her rifle at her side and her donkey behind her. Avila’s two splayed fingers pay subtle homage to Paiz, in solidarity with another strong Tigua woman. In the same way, pages 16 and 17 compare Tribal member and IT Support Supervisor Jessica Gomez troubleshooting the new YDSP health clinic server to a photo from the 1950s of Antonia Granillo Zavala kneading dough for bread. The two women’s hands are equally skillful, performing essential tasks to benefit the rest of the tribe. Pages 34 and 35 feature the Senclair family in front of their home in District I, beside an 1880s image of Tigua potter Nestora Piarote before her adobe pueblo. The homes in both photos, with their vigas exposed, are almost identical, despite the close-to-150-year difference between them.
It was my honor and privilege to design this report, meet the tribal members featured within it, and learn more about the multi-faceted, day-to-day activities that make the YDSP such a vibrant and prosperous community.
Thanks once again to Helix Solutions with whom it is always a pleasure to work, and to Tovar Printing of El Paso, Texas for their expert execution, especially in the soft-touch laminated cover and its gold foil debossed text which allow the report to truly look and feel like a very special photo album.