CAMP MABRY, Texas – Members of the Texas Military Forces (TXMF) and representatives from five different Tribal Nations living in Texas, Louisiana, New Mexico and Oklahoma gathered here, in Austin, on Aug. 19, 2013, with one stated goal in mind – to protect their shared history.
Eight thousand years ago, long before any one nation’s flag flew over this state, people lived here, on the land that is now known as Texas. Surrounded by the bluebonnets, rivers, hills and plains of Texas, people built homes, cooked meals and raised families. Today, their story remains buried throughout the Lone Star State.
In the 1990’s, TXMF began consulting with Tribal representatives in order to identify artifacts and locations of significance. Since its conception, the exchange process has focused on addressing a variety of issues ranging from the protection of sensitive archaeological sites, which allow access and preservation of traditional natural resources for tribal use, to the identification and return of objects the tribes hold sacred.
“This is our opportunity to meet with different Tribal Nations and help preserve their history,” said Maj. Gen. John F. Nichols, The Adjutant General of Texas and Commanding General of the Texas Military Forces.
Today, representatives from the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe, Caddo Tribe, Comanche Nation, Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana, Alabama-Quassarte Tribal Town, Thlopthlocco Tribal Town, Kiowa Tribe, Mescalero Apache Tribe, Tonkawa Tribe, Wichita and Affiliated Tribes and the Apache Tribe of Oklahoma regularly meet with TXMF officials to discuss efforts being made to preserve both their heritage and ancient Texas history.
In 2005, according to TXMF Cultural Resource Program records, a 2,000 year-old ceramic pot was unearthed on TXMF property. After visiting with tribal leaders, it was discovered that the artifact held sacred significance to the Caddo Nation and was returned to the tribe.
Currently, TXMF has more than 700 protected archeological sites and has collected tens of thousands of artifacts that help depict life as it was, in Texas, thousands of years ago, said Kristen Mt Joy, Cultural Resource Program Manager for TXMF and a registered professional archeologist.
“The beautiful thing about our program is that [TXMF] is trying to acknowledge [the Tribal Nations’] role in the history of our state,” Mt Joy said. “It isn’t just a ‘check the box’ thing; [TXMF] really wants to hear what the Tribes have to say.”
The consultation process has resulted in more than artifact identification. As the partnership grows, more is learned about the history of the tribes and about the people who once inhabited Texas. Areas that are of cultural significance are labeled traditional cultural property, and special care is taken to preserve the area in its natural state. For example, an area traditionally used to gather plants for medicines – this area TXMF will try to protect, to ensure that the same plant life can continue to grow.
In an attempt to protect these lands, both TXMF and their Tribal Nation partners understand that the focus does not stray from the installations’ primary mission of training service members.
“[The Tribes] take great pride in the military,” Mt Joy said. “They understand that we have a mission to train Soldiers and prepare them for service.”
This annual consultation is “an opportunity to share and exchange information on improving preservation,” said Mt Joy. This consultation process has created a partnership between TXMF and each Tribal Nation.
During the meeting, Charles Coleman, Tribal Historic Preservation Officer of the Thlopthlocco Tribal Town, presented Nichols with a traditional flute and thanked him for his commitment to partnering with the Tribal Nations. According to Coleman, the flute was handmade, out of bamboo, by members of the Thlopthlocco tribe and is a replica of flutes played by their tribe many years ago.
As the meeting came to an end, a shared theme remained. Members of each tribe shared with the group what they are doing to record their history for future generations.
“It is our duty to preserve history,” Nichols said, reiterating a TXMF commitment to continue its work alongside the tribes.