Youth Programs

Indigenous Arts Summer Camp


The Indigenous Arts Summer Camp is a week-long experience for Hispanic and other low-income youth where they learn about their indigenous identity through the rich legacy of their traditional arts. These children cannot afford traditional summer camps that can cost as much as $300 per week. Our camp is free because it is funded by generous donors including the City of San Marcos, Hays County, San Marcos Lions Club, and Texas Commission on the Arts. Plus each year we fundraise to buy art supplies and healthy snacks for each student.

emilyFive Native American instructors are led by Marleen Villanueva (left), the Institute's Youth Programs Director, who is also earning her Masters at U.T. Austin in Indigenous Studies and Education. The instructors teach art-related classes and workshops to students ages 9 to 13. The camp is held at the Cuauhtemoc Hall, 1100 Patton Street, San Marcos, Texas, from June 26 through 30, 2017. Camp begins at 8:00 AM each day and ends at 5:15 PM. On Friday, June 30th at 5:30 PM, there will be a Grand Finale Performance by the students for their families, friends, and the general public.

We teach these youth through a holistic pedagogy that is based on the values of their indigenous heritage. These Native American values promote responsibility to their family, community, and environment, supports finishing high school, encourages enrollment in higher education, and results in positive contributions to society.

camp2This contribution includes stewardship of Mother Earth in addressing environmental issues, which we stress during their trip to Spring Lake to visit our sacred springs. (Photo left)

This educational program is unique in using Native American arts, taught by Native artists, to transmit knowledge that will help these youth to succeed in school and in life. We target Hispanics from the local school district, but all youth from any background are accepted in the program and everyone benefits from this special way of learning.

Much like the Boy Scouts teaches Native American values and ways of life, we teach indigenous knowledge at a deeper level directly from Native elders and teachers, and from ancient traditions passed down for generations. Parents document immediate changes in attitude about school, respect, and responsibility, while students participate in our program. This unique educational experience is not provided in the schools - but our knowledge enhances what the schools teach.


For an application, please click HERE. If you are not in the San Marcos Consolidated School District, your application is subject to a camp fee of $300 for the full week of activities. For a scholarship to the camp click HERE.


Must attend all five days: Each day we teach a new set of activities that builds on the previous day's knowledge. We start art projects that we work on each day and are completed over the full week. We have a series of talks with the elders to learn about families, respect, and responsibility to our communities and Mother Earth -- each talk conveys knowledge that is learned slowly over the week-long experience. This is why it is essential that the students make a commitment to attend every day of the five-day camp.


The Institute is undertaking a new initiative in November 2016. Marleen Villanueva, our new Youth Programs Director will implement new programming.

Expanded indigenous summer camps:  Using our current, successful indigenous arts summer camp, we will develop curriculum that can be replicated and establish a pilot project in Austin and one in San Antonio to test, refine, and prove this program.

Enhanced community programming:  We will develop curriculum and fund indigenous programs such as digital storytelling and offer this in our summer camp in 2017. We will document its success and assure our ability to replicate this program.

Partnerships with school districts for in-school programming:  We will form collaborations with school districts to identify and meet their cultural curriculum needs with indigenous programming.

Training for teachers and service providers:  We will develop a training program that will include workshops, seminars, and week-long sessions that will teach our indigenous curriculum.  We will provide this training to teachers, community service providers, and the general public.  The fees for this training will support this effort and also generate revenue for our youth programs.


Thank you so much and that’s not coming only from me.  I believe the whole camp is thanking you. The way you worked so hard and asked permission for everything makes me honor you. Thanks to you I personally learned that I can tell stories, not only that I learned about, but I can make my own. And I’m sure some day, this will be a story too. -- Luis Enrique Gonzalez-Aponte, Indigenous Arts Camp student


Help Us Reach Our Goaldonate


We need your help to buy 40 Native American flutes and hand-drum kits for our summer camp students, and healthy, fresh, indigenous-food-related snacks.

Native American Flutes
& Hand-drum Kits

flutesThe Native American flute is used to teach students about Native songs and rhythms. They learn an indigenous song such as the Lakota Love Song, or the Zuni Sunrise Song, and perform this at the end of the week at their Grand Finale Performance. At the end of the camp they keep their flutes so they can continue to practice and enjoy playing music. The flutes are plastic and purchased through a wholesale outlet, and cost $15 each plus shipping.

JerryEvery year we try to raise enough money to buy hand-drum kits for our students. Yet the expense is too great. The drum is the heartbeat of the Native American culture. This symbolic and dynamic instrument would add a tremendous impact to the learning of each student. They would make their own drum and then learn the beats that are used for specific social and ceremonial occasions. Each drum kit at wholesale prices, costs $47 plus shipping.

Healthy Snacks

We provide breakfast and lunch, as well as two healthy snacks per day. The lunches are donated by the San Marcos Consolidated Independent School District, and we purchase fresh food to make the snacks.

The snacks we create are related to indigenous foods like "The Three Sisters" corn, squash, and beans, and fresh fruit (most of the fruit consumed world wide was first cultivated by Native Americans). As we serve each snack we provide a lesson on indigenous foods and their health value.

Help us to buy the art supplies that will inspire creativity and the healthy food that will nourish and educate our students about their indigenous legacy.donate

...........camp4...............2015 Danza Azteca drummers


Elders: Dr. Mario Garza, Fred Villanueva from Cuauhtemoc Hall, and Maria Rocha