Since the early 90s, Native American tribes from all over the state have come together in San Marcos to honor their history and ensure their future by hosting a traditional powwow at Spring Lake. This year the Sacred Springs Powwow, hosted by the Indigenous Cultures Institute, included traditional dancers in full regalia, Native American food, arts and crafts, flute players, storytellers, and merchant vendors with traditional Native American goods. This year was the first for the powwow to include a Native culture tent, where demonstrators brought cultural information, stories and artifacts to an audience.
One of the keynote speakers for the Native culture tent presented information on the White Shaman rock paintings that depict the creation story of the Coahuiltecan (ko-all-hee-tek-an/ co-al-ee-tec-an) people, where the 4,000 year old story described how the tribe came from the underworld to emerge in Spring Lake.
The tradition started back in 1995, when the Lucky Tomblin family brought Kiowa and other Native people to San Marcos to honor the springs. The event took a 15 year hiatus, and is now in it’s 5th consecutive year. The Tomblin family was honored in a cultural dance this year, and were gifted with a blanket during a special ceremony as a thank you for the initial 1995 powwow. Traditional native american blankets often require a lot of time to make, and are considered a symbol of honor, comfort, and heritage.
Javier Garza, board member and nephew of the institute’s founder, Mario Garza, was on his fifth year helping out at the powwow. His favorite parts of the powwow included the dancers and sacred blessing that began the day, honoring their creation story, saying “The dancers dancing and the sacred ceremony in the morning where they bless the forestation to the north east and south, the creator, the water, the earth, the fire…. our creation stories say we came from the underworld, which is underneath the water. This is a Sacred Spring- there are four springs in the state of Texas: Barton springs, Aquarena Springs, Balmorhea Springs, and then there is another one next to incarnate word… We’re from here, so we have the sacred ceremony in the morning and then we celebrate all day… Never forget your background or where you came from, it’s just a festive joyous event.”
Between the merchant tents and the tribal dancers, a circle of food trucks and tents offered up various cultural dishes. Roasted corn, fry bread, and buffalo meat were just a few of indigenous delicacies offered at the powwow, giving a literal taste of Native American culture.
Alfredo Valdez, a member of the Lipan Apache tribe, came all of the way from the valley to attend The Sacred Springs Powwow. Valdez said the events help keep traditions alive, emphasizing “It’s a dying culture in some places. It’s a sad thing when you see a tradition go away.”
Jacob Aguilar, a volunteer with the Indigenous Culture Institute, came from San Antonio to attend the powwow for the second year in a row. He believes the events are important to teach cultural traditions, even to those who aren’t part of the culture since powwows help “give a reminder to other people that aren’t Indigenous, or are indigenous but don’t know it, give them a meaning where they came from and also to teach the youth about their past and their ancestors to teach the generation following them”
The Indigenous Culture Institute calls Spring Lake one of the “oldest, continuously inhabited sites in North America and a sacred site to many Native Americans,” and hope to continue the traditional Sacred Springs Powwow for many years to come.