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

Yana Wana's Legend of the Bluebonnet

A play for young audiences

Thank you to Jose Lozano and Magic Spoon Productions for this amazing video.

B. Iden Payne Award winner, Theatre for Young Audiences - Best Production, and Best Director (Rudy Ramirez)

The Institute has produced Yana Wana’s Legend of the Bluebonnet in partnership with Teatro Vivo of Austin, written by Maria Rocha and Roxanne Schroeder-Arce and directed by award-winning director Rudy Ramirez.

The play was initially commissioned by the Dallas Children’s Theater and premiered in Dallas on March 23, 2018. The Institute will tour the play during Fall 2020 and Spring 2021. Suitable for grades 4th through 8th. Contact us for booking dates.

Thirteen-year-old María is having trouble in school, so her mom sends her to stay with her Coahuiltecan grandmother in distant Laredo for discipline and perspective.  There, María is told an ancient story of young Yana Wana who followed a revered deer to find water to save her people. Yana Wana’s story exposes​ an amazing and unknown ancestral connection to the bluebonnet that gives María a renewed sense of self and family pride.  You may have read one version in school; now we invite you to come see the legend through the eyes of Yana Wana in this world premiere.  A beautiful, original play that illustrates the power of heritage and the value of one’s own story – especially one as ancient as the petroglyphs of Texas.

Indigenous Arts Summer Encounter

Indigenous Arts Summer Encounter 2017

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

These children cannot afford traditional summer camps that can cost as much as $500 per week. Our camp is free 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 UU Fellowship, AMVETS Post 104, and Texas Commission on the Arts. Plus each year we fundraise to buy the necessary art supplies, healthy snacks, for the youth, and stipends for the instructors.

June 22 - 26, 2020

Eight Native American instructors are led by Pablo Montes, the Institute’s Youth Programs Director, who is also earning his Ph.D. at U.T. Austin in Cultural 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. Camp begins at 8:00 AM each day and ends at 5:30 PM. On Friday at 5:30 PM there is a final ceremony along the shores of the Sacred Springs, attended by the students, their families, friends, and the general public. Photos right, instructors: Pablo Montes (Coordinator/Storytelling), Marilyse Figueroa (Writing), Dr. Mario Garza (Elder/Culture), Tanya Gativa (Visual Arts), Mario Ramirez (Danza), Marleen Villanueva (Culture).

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.  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 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.

Application 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, 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.

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