History, heritage take center stage at inaugural Salute to Veterans Powwow

The Pow Wow begins with the Grand Entry in which all dancers enter the arena led by head dancers before the competition begins. (Jarrett Whitener/ Community Impact Newspaper)
The Pow Wow begins with the Grand Entry in which all dancers enter the arena led by head dancers before the competition begins. (Jarrett Whitener/ Community Impact Newspaper)

The Pow Wow begins with the Grand Entry in which all dancers enter the arena led by head dancers before the competition begins. (Jarrett Whitener/ Community Impact Newspaper)

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Human history in Cibolo dates back as far as the 1500s, when tribes including the Wichita, Karankawa, Caddo, Lipan Apache, Tonkawa, Comanche and others used the area for hunting groups and the creek, according to local history expert Judy Womack.

“You had an American Indian presence here in Cibolo for a long time,” Womack said. “It was called the Cibolo Valley back before there was ever any distinction between Cibolo, Schertz and all that.”

Lenny Medina, a Cibolo resident associated with the Kickapoo and the Comanche Little Ponies, has a goal of educating the area on American Indian tribes, their traditions and their connection to Cibolo. According to Medina, that desire to educate and preserve culture led to forming the Salute to Veterans Powwow, hosted at the Cibolo Soccer Stadium from Nov. 19-21.

The event included local food vendors, craft vendors from different tribes sharing a piece of their culture and dances signifying a different meaning of significance to the event.

“Our powwows are all about dance and song,” Medina said. “My wife recommended a veterans powwow to me because I am a veteran, and no one has ever in San Antonio had a veterans dance.”


City roots

According to Medina, indigenous roots run deep in the region. The name for Cibolo came from a Spanish and Comanche word from the Comancheria, the region occupied by the Comanche, that translates to “buffalo.”

“The Comanches controlled most of the area from Bandera, Kerrville and even Cibolo,” Medina said. “The reason a lot of the Comanches hung out around the Cibolo area was because of the buffalo.”

Medina said there is a difference between Native American and American Indian, in that Native American includes the indigenous groups that are from Mexico whereas those that roam the plains in the United States area are American Indian, but each group prefers to be called by their tribe name.

According to Medina, local attractions such as Comanche Park are important to the history of the area and tell the story that many books do not teach about Cibolo.“Comanche Park is there because a lot of the Comanche people, especially the hunters, would go there and look out to see where the buffalo or the enemy was back in the day,” he said. While the common conception of how hunting and living during that time is portrayed as cinematic, Womack said that the tribes in the area were a lot smarter than most are led to believe, utilizing the creek in their hunting method.

“What we call Cibolo Creek today was a big creek,” Womack said. “And the Indians used it as a campground because it was such a good water area. They also used it somewhat to kill the buffalo. They would chase the buffalo into the creekside, and the buffalo would fall over into the side of the creek because it was quite steep, and they killed the buffalo that way.”

According to Womack, after the 1840s, many tribes and nations left the area for more plains, and those that remained used the land for farming and the creek.

According to Womack, later came Cibolo settlers, German immigrants who spread across the valley, making up the current metrocom.

“The people here in this area were the cousins to the ones in New Braunfels,” Womack said. “They were all coming from Germany, and it was strictly farming land over here, and the area grew very slowly.”

From the period up until the Civil War, the valley stayed an agricultural hot spot before developments began opening, she said.

Development came with the railroad in 1877. According to Womack, residents were asked to name the area, which is where the first mention of the name was recorded.

During the early 1900s, Main Street on Cibolo began development with a bank and electricity brought modernization. In 1965, the first vote to declare Cibolo a township was made, and it has grown consistently since its founding, Womack said.

“The history of Cibolo can be a little hard to pin down exactly,” Womack said. “We are not the county seat—Seguin is—and we didn’t have a newspaper. Cibolo had been harder to scrounge up all the history for, because you had to know someone that knew. It’s a neat town.”

Preserving the history

With the hopes to educate residents and preserve American Indian culture, Medina and his wife, Dana Medina, took the powwow idea to Cibolo City Council in October, which Mayor Stosh Boyle supported. According to the 2020 census, American Indian and Alaskan Natives make up 0.7% of the current population.

“The American Indian is the smallest of the minorities,” Boyle said. “So having an organization that honors the veterans and the American Indians, it brings in the best of both worlds, and it gets people involved with the culture.”

Boyle is part Chippewa, a member of the Oneida Nation in Green Bay, Wisconsin, and was born on the Lac du Flambeau reservation.

As the city grows, more people come to the area without knowing the significance of Cibolo Valley, Boyle said. While managing the city’s growth, Boyle wants to maintain the history and culture in Cibolo from the different tribes formerly in the area as well as the German settlers that helped found the city. He would also like to incorporate the influence of the Hispanic nationalities that moved into Texas.

As generations go on, Boyle said that people may not have the experience and culture from the American Indian that can be found today.

“I hate to say it, but we are a dying breed,” Boyle said. “It is really important to get the message out and support things like this and teach people.”

Boyle, said the exponential growth has allowed new residents to experience history and culture as the city aims to preserve it through the Historic Committee and Main Street restoration. City Council Member and Mayor Pro Tem Joel Hicks said the committee and restoration group share the mayor’s vision to keep the small-town charm and invite pow wow organizers to share their culture with the city in the years to come.

“It is very important to have something like this and bring the heritage to this area,” he said. “You always hear about this as being Cibolo Valley because of all the buffalo coming here to graze, and with that, the powwow brings a lot of the history back to this area.”
By Jarrett Whitener

Reporter, Northeast San Antonio Metrocom

Jarrett joined Community Impact Newspaper as a reporter in September 2021. Prior to CI, he was a staff writer for two papers in North Georgia, the North Georgia News and the Towns County Herald. He graduated from Young Harris College with a degree in Creative Writing in 2020. Jarrett covers education, local government, transportation, business, real estate development and nonprofits in the Northeast San Antonio Metrocom.