The Indigenous Cultures Institute was founded in 2006 by members of the Miakan/Garza Band, one of the over two-hundred bands that resided in Texas and northeastern Mexico when the Spaniards first arrived. The 83rd Legislature recognized the Miakan-Garza Band as a Texas Indian tribe with "immeasurable contributions to the State of Texas". Members of the Miakan/Garza Band still practice their traditional ceremonies and maintain long held family ties. Photo left: Four generations of the Miakan-Garza Band, representing fifteen major families, attended the State recognition ceremony at the State Capitol on May 16, 2013.
Dr. Mario Garza currently serves as board of elder’s chair and executive director, and is the principal founder of the Institute. He is a member of the Miakan/Garza band of the Coahuiltecan people.
Dr. Garza earned a multidisciplinary Ph.D. from Michigan State University in Social Science, with areas of concentration in Sociology, Political Science and Social Work. He has taught classes at Michigan State University, Lansing Community College and Austin Community College, and has lectured at Texas State University, the University of Texas at Austin, the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor and other educational institutions and community forums.
He has been active in graves protection and repatriation since 1991 participating in reburial ceremonies at the Comanche Cemetery in Fort Hood, Texas including two Coahuiltecan reburials. In November 27, 1999, Dr. Garza participated in the preparation of over two-hundred remains that were repatriated back to Mission San Juan Capistrano cemetery in San Antonio, Texas – the largest repatriation ceremony in Texas conducted by a non-Bureau of Indian Affairs-recognized group.
Dr. Garza served two tours of duty in Vietnam with the 1/616th Medical Clearing Company, 44th Medical Brigade, U. S. Army. He currently lives in San Marcos, Texas near the sacred springs that archeologists believe to be the oldest, continuously inhabited site in North America.
Texas history is replete with a rich and dynamic indigenous presence. But sadly the significant story about the Coahuiltecans, the original Texas Indians, is seldom told. It is heartening to see Dr. Garza put his many years of experience into researching and compiling this critically important information that relates directly to the Mexican American population of this State. Our children will benefit greatly from learning about their heritage, as will the general public who will certainly appreciate the contributions and continued influence of this Native American community in Texas.
-- Dr. Victor Saenz, U.T. Austin
Dr. Mario Garza - Chair
Valdemar Garza - Vice Chair
María F. Rocha – Secretary Treasurer
Francisco Garza - Board Member
Javier Garza - Board Member
Benjamin Rocha - Board Member
Tane Ward, M.A.
Aaron Pyle, M.S.W.
Cemelli De Aztlan, M.Div.
Dr. Lydia French
Nakum Journal Managing Editor
Sacred Sites Programs Director
Carlos Aceves, M.Ed.
Xinachtli Project Director
María Martinez, M.Ed.
Assistant Powwow Coordinator