SAN MARCOS, Texas – In the first part of October, people with a tribal connection to Texas along with those interested in our Native American past, descend up San Marcos to celebrate the way of life way before Columbus sailed across the Atlantic.
Dr. Mario Garza starts the Sacred Springs Powwow with a prayer next to one of the most important sites in Native American culture.
“Of all our sacred sites, this is our most sacred site. To us, this is our Garden of Eden,” said Garza. “We have been coming here to this area doing the parade and doing ceremonies for quite a while, because we consider this our birth site. We believe this is where we came out into this plane.”
What most of us remember as Aquarena Springs actually has more history to it than that. Before the swimming pig and mermaids of the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, the site was one of the most important to the native tribes and people have been coming here for nearly 20,000 years.
“According to our creation story, this is where we originated. We were created in the underworld, we followed the deer, and then we came out here at the springs. That’s why we call it the Sacred Springs,” Garza explained.
To celebrate the spring being restored to its natural state, The Indigenous Cultures Institute decided to throw a big ol’ party.
“So, see the dancers? You know, to hear the drum, because I feel it wakes a lot of the spirits in this area and they come out and dance with us, and of course I love the food,” said Garza.
The Sacred Springs powwow has only been around for a few years but each year gets bigger and more tribes come to celebrate from all over the country and world.
“It’s not about being a Texan, it’s not about being an American, it’s not about being Canadian or anything, it’s about being a human being, and so we come together and celebrate with our human family,” Tiffany Al-Anzi, San Marcos native, said.
The perpetual beat of the drums, ceaseless dancing, and rhythmic chanting are thrilling to watch and help you imagine what the Lone Star State was like, well, before it was called Texas.
As you look around at this proud community, you start to notice something even deeper. Another part of their past these people embrace, despite the history and conflicts between Native Americans and the settlers who expanded west, patriotism is strong here.
“When I was in Vietnam, one percent – native people were one percent of the total population in the United States, but we were two percent of the soldiers in Vietnam,” said Garza.
Dr. Garza served two tours in Vietnam.
“Native people have always honored veterans, and native people, part of our culture is to protect our family, and then that translated into protecting our land, protecting our country. So, whenever the United States had been involved in some conflict or war, native people have had a high grade of volunteering, you know, for the service,” Garza said. “We had to defend ourselves against you know, what became the United States government, but now we serve in the armed forces for that government. It’s just part of protecting the family, protecting the country, so we would not have somebody come and invade us again.”
In a sense the Sacred Springs powwow is layered with a multitude of celebrations. From remembering the ancient people who used this spring to sustain life to the generations of tribes who roamed the prairies we now call Texas, and honoring today’s Native Americans who serve the country we call home.
“We need for our culture to continue with our heritage and all this stuff, so we work with kids and try to teach them about our contributions, about our history, about our culture, and what it means to be an indigenous person,” said Garza.