Learning about CERT and the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo

Well, we’ve completed our second day of training in the CERT Train-the-Trainer class that we’re conducting here in Austin, Texas.  Tonight, I thought I’d tell you about the cultural diversity in our class and more specifically about the culture of two of our students.

As I mentioned in my earlier post, our class has about 30 students from around Texas.  Two in particular, Josh and his brother-in-law Mike are part of the Yselta del Sur Pueblo Tribe  located in the El Paso, Texas area.  Today, I had the pleasure of having lunch with these gentlemen who very generously educated me about their tribe and culture.  Josh is the Emergency Management Coordinator for the tribe and Mike is the tribe’s CERT Coordinator.

The Ysleta del Sur Pueblo is situated within the City of El Paso and the City of Socorro, Texas, just north of Mexico along the Rio Grande.  The land configuration is referred to as “checkerboard” or pieced together with non-contiguous boundaries.  The primary reservation community is one mile northeast of the Zaragoza International border between the United States and Mexico.  There are two communities that are separated by about six miles of land.

In Spanish, the people and language are called Tigua (pronounced Tiwa).  The tribe’s origins are traced back to a formerly Southern Tiwa-speaking people who were displaced from New Mexico in 1680 and 1681 during the Pueblo Revolt against the Spaniards.  The Southern Tiwa language is a Kiowa–Tanoan language spoken at Sandia Pueblo and Isleta Pueblo in New Mexico and Ysleta del Sur in Texas.  As these Tiwa-speaking people were relocated from New Mexico to Texas, they assimilated with the Spanish and as a result their language almost died out.  Today, members of the tribe have worked hard to restore their native language.

The tribe is the only federally recognized tribe that allowed the federal government to determine blood quantum.  For some tribes in Indian country, you must be full-blood in order to rightfully call yourself an Indian. For others, merely being of lineal descent is sufficient regardless of how much Indian blood you have in you. This is significant information because it plays out in the future… The federal government withdraws federal recognition of a person as “Indian” when they reach below one-fourth Indian blood.

In 1968 the United States Congress passed P.L. 100-89, which restored Federal recognition to this tribe, the southernmost tribe of the Pueblo Indians.  In addition, the state of Texas recognized the tribe.  The Yselta del Sur Pueblo Tribe has approximately 3000 citizens living on tribal grounds.

The Pueblo’s Tribal Government is comprised of a Traditional Council.  Elected Council seats include a Governor, a Lieutenant Governor, an Aguacil (bailiff or sheriff), and four Council Members.  The Council acts as a governing body and approves all major strategic decisions.  The Governors also provide administrative oversight of Tribal operations and business.  Additional Council seats include a Cacique (Chief) and a Capitan de Guerra (War Captain).  These positions are also elected, but are life-long terms.  The Cacique and War Captain provide spiritual and traditional guidance.  The Tribe is governed by oral tradition as well as the Tribal Code of Laws enforced by the Tribal Police Department and upheld by the Tribal Court.

Tribal CERT

Like many communities across this great nation, the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo tribe has recognized that they simply don’t have unlimited resources that can be used in response to a disaster.  Again, like many communities, this lesson was learned from incidents like the floods of 2006 where 300+ homes were lost, a hard freeze in February 2011 when pipes burst throughout the community, and dust storms that occur three or four times a year.  It’s also influenced by a large entertainment complex that the tribe operates.  During big events ingress and egress on the few local roads is of great concern due to heavy congestion.  As such, the tribal leaders have provided a directive that at least one member from every household on the reservation complete the CERT training curriculum.

The mission of the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo (YDSP) Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) Program is to harness the power of tribal community members through education, training and volunteer service to make our community safer, stronger and better prepared to respond to the threats of terrorism, crime, public health issues and disasters of any kind. YDSP CERT training promotes a partnering effort between tribal and city/county emergency services and the people that they serve. YDSP CERT members are encouraged to support tribal emergency response agencies by taking a more active role in emergency preparedness projects in their community.  Currently, the tribe has an AmeriCorps worker who is helping with tribal recruitment as well as reaching out to the larger surrounding communities.

Here’s a picture of two pins Josh and Mike presented me from their tribe.  The round orange colored one with a blue triangle is their tribal Emergency Management pin.  The other is a fairly typical CERT pin, with a significant change.  They replaced the traditional “community” silhouette with the Pueblo and they added “YDSP” into the T of CERT.  I’ll always be fond of these pins!

It has truly been my pleasure to have the opportunity to work with these guys this week.  I look forward to learning more about their tribe and their quest for tribal preparedness.

I’ll leave you with these pictures from our class today …

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Getting Prepared In a Year

So let’s continue building our preparedness.  Here’s what you can do now to add to your preparedness kit:

When you are at the grocery store, I want you to pick-up the following items:

•             one gallon of water (per person, and don’t forget your pets too)

•             one ready-to-eat soup (not concentrate)

•             a canned fruit (i.e. peaches, pears, mandarin oranges, applesauce, etc.)

•             one can vegetables (i.e. green beans, kernel corn, peas, beets, kidney beans, carrots, etc.)

•             also, if needed extra plastic baby bottles, formula, and diapers

Things To Do:

•             Establish an out-of-state contact to call in case of an emergency.


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