Preserving the cultures of Native Americans indigenous to Texas and northern Mexico and maintaining our covenant with sacred sites.

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Indigenous Arts Summer Encounter

Our annual youth program is the Indigenous Arts Summer Encounter, a week-long ceremonial experience for Hispanic, Indigenous, and allied youth where they learn about their Indigenous identity through the vibrant legacy of their traditional arts. 

Local summer camps remain unaffordable and inaccessible for many local youth. The fee for our encounter is $500, and we offer full scholarships to most participants because it is funded by generous donors including the City of San Marcos Arts Commission, Cuauhtemoc Hall, Hays County, San Marcos Lions Club, San Marcos Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, Burdine Johnson Foundation, Texas Commission on the Arts, and generous contributions from our ICI community. Plus each year we fundraise to buy the necessary art supplies and healthy snacks for the youth, and stipends for the Indigenous instructors.

2024: June 24 - 29

This year, eight Native American instructors are led by Marial Quezada, the Institute’s Education Programs Director. The instructors teach art-related classes and workshops to students ages 10 to 14. The camp is held at the Cuauhtemoc Hall, 1100 Patton Street, San Marcos, Texas. The Encounter begins at 8:00 AM each day and ends at 5:00 PM. On Saturday there is a final gathering along the shores of the Sacred Springs for a water ceremony and then a pilgrimage to the Sacred Springs Burial Grounds to honor the ancestors.  It is attended by the students, their families, friends, and the general public. 

Communal mural depicting Sacred Springs, 2016 Encounter. “In Lak’ Ech”, Mayan for “You are my other me.”

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.

These contributions include stewardship of Mother Earth in addressing environmental issues, which we stress during their trip to Spring Lake to visit our sacred springs.  We teach indigenous knowledge at a deep level directly from Native elders and teachers, and from ancient traditions passed down for generations. Parents comment on observing 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 – our knowledge enhances what the schools teach.

Youth Art Music Writing Theatre & Danza

Ceremonial rattles painted by each student, for use in Aztec danza and in final ceremony at the Sacred Springs. Colored sand painting is an ancient art form.

Sample retablo painted by visual arts instructors Paulina Dosal and Tanya Gativa.

Waterbird from creation story, flying over Sacred Springs, by Anjeanette Garcia, high school intern.

Students drew and wrote postcards of hope to the migrant children held in detention camps in south Texas, which were delivered by one of the parents after the encounter. The postcard above, at the middle bottom says “freedom  libertad” in English and Spanish. Click on the photo to read the text.

Registration Form

If the student attends a SMCISD school, they can participate for FREE. If you are not in the San Marcos Consolidated Independent School District, your application is subject to a camp fee of $500 for the full week of activities.

If you do not live in the SMCISD area, have a limited income, and would like a scholarship to the camp please contact us.



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 and applied through the arts, 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.