Tenemos el Universo Adentro/We have the Universe within

by Pablo Montes

“What we do to the water here goes to the ocean and affects the waters on the other side of the world. When we protect the waters here, that means we are protecting the waters everywhere and for all of us.” – Maria Rocha, Coahuiltecan Elder

The Texas Water Stories research includes a collaboration with the annual Summer Encounter for children and youth, hosted by the Indigenous Cultures Institute in San Marcos, TX. The encounter is lead by the Coahuiltecan Elders of the Maikan/Garza Band of Texas. Each year there is a theme that helps guide the ceremonial encounter and this year the theme was the Universe within us; all that which is created in the universe is already embodied within us. We began the encounter with a water ceremony at the sacred springs in San Marcos.

Because we began with a water ceremony, throughout the entire week of the Summer Encounter we remained in ceremony. Through song, theatre and dance, participants learned the creation story of the Coahuiltecan peoples and its inherent connection to the sacred springs of San Marcos.

“This water has now touched all of you and you are now connected to these waters and each other… When we are gone and someone asks you how to ask permission and call on your ancestors with the help of these waters, you will now know how to help your community. “

Over the course of the week, the young people engaged with situated Indigenous knowledges and teachings from and by the Indigenous community. Summer encounter curriculum included teachings on living in ethical relationality with more-than-human life, the impacts of settler colonialism, genocide, and racism, and responsibilities to the lands and waters. Towards the end of the encounter, we took a glass-bottom boat tour of the sacred spring in San Marcos. The following is an excerpt of a dialogue between the tour guide and one of the youth:

Youth: Where is the crack?

Guide: What crack?

Youth: The one where the waterbird dove into to get the people with the deer [in the Coahuiltecan creation story]?!?

Guide: I don’t think I’ve ever heard it

Youth: Someone needs to tell him the story!

What might be learnt from these frictions between Euro-western sustainability discourses and Indigenous peoples and knowledges? How can decolonial environmental educational work with young people, such as the Summer encounter be an avenue for such potentials?