Monday, November 18, 2019
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The annual Nde Daa Spring Pow Wow put on by the South Texas Indian Dancers will be held Saturday, March 14, at the Lark Community Center, 2601 Lark Street, in McAllen. The all-day event begins at 10 a.m. and ends at 10:30 p.m.

There will be gourd dancing at 11:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. Grand entries with full Indian regalia will be held at 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Dancers will be wearing full Indian costumes from head to toe. After the entry a variety of Indian dances will be demonstrated. Visitors will be invited to dance with the Indians during some of the dances. They will also be given an opportunity to see the costumes up close and ask questions about them.

20150312-Indian-Pow-WowThere will be displays of Native American jewelry, dream catchers and arts and crafts. Jewelry-making supplies, including a variety of beads, will be for sale along with other items. Cake walks and raffles are always a part of this special event.

Robert Soto, who is vice-chairman of a tribe of 600 Lipan Apache living in South Texas, works hard to see that his Native American heritage is preserved. At one time the Apache roamed from the mouth of the Rio Grande to the Alpine Mountains of West Texas. They traveled as far north as San Antonio and as far south a Mexico City.

As happened in other parts of the country, the ways and customs of the Apache clashed with the settlers coming into Texas. A law was passed in 1837 that required all Indians in Texas to be put on a reservation. Although there is no official Apache reservation, some were sent to reservations in Oklahoma.

   The federal government put a bounty on their heads, and many of the Apache escaped into Northern Mexico where they lived with the Kickapoo tribe and began assimilation into the Mexican culture. This was difficult for the Apaches who were hunters and gatherers, not farmers and ranchers.

   In an effort to quell the last of the Indian uprisings in 1875, General McKensie was sent by President Andrew Jackson to clear Texas of all Indians. In May of 1875, many of the Apaches who had fled into Mexico were either killed or captured. Others escaped and hid in the mountains. Soto’s ancestors were among those who hid in the mountains for the next 25 years.

Around 1900 they began returning to Texas and settled around the Uvalde area. By then there were only 123 Lipan Apache left.

The survivors came from three distinct groups: the People of the Desert, the People of the Forest, and the People of Big Water, which included those who lived along the Rio Grande. When the first Apache met the Spanish Conquistadors, they asked what they called the area. They were told “Komitsa” which means big water in Apache. The Spaniards changed it to Big River or Rio Grande. Soto takes pride in the fact the Rio Grande River’s name originated with his ancestors.

Visitors are welcome to come by and stay for an hour or stay for the day and see the grace of the gourd dancers and many other dances and activities celebrating the heritage of the Lipan Apache and other Native Americans. Admission is free.

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