Leander, TX

Community Connections - Leander Legacy: Honoring Aptzāi Pil’

Skye Howell

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Reburial of Ancestral RemainsPhoto byIndigenous Cultures Institute

Leander Legacy: Honoring Aptzāi Pil’ Symposium

In 1982, TxDOT discovered the remains of a female from the Paleo-Indian period at a location in the Leander, Texas area. Some locals and archaeologists came to refer to the remains of the woman as “Leanne,” “Leanderthal Lady,” and “Wilson-Leonard Remains.”The age and location where the remains were uncovered indicate that she is a Coahuiltecan ancestor, and naming her with a colonized name is very difficult for many to hear. We now use the Indigenous name, Aptzāi Pil’, meaning Ancient One in the Coahuiltecan language.

Save the Date: Friday, July 21 for Leander Legacy: Honoring Aptzāi Pil’ Symposium and Cultural Celebration to be held at the San Gabriel Austin Community College Campus.

Navigating the Challenges of Repatriation

The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) databases list more than 7 million Culturally Unidentifiable Inventoried (CUI) Native American remains of our ancestors that have been unearthed over the years and are kept in “collections” by universities, museums, and federal and state departments. This has happened in a country where it is against the law to disturb a human grave. As of 2015, the remains of 3,454 ancestors were removed from our Texas sacred grounds.

Over 2,400 of those ancestors are at UT-Austin. To date, TARL has not released Aptzāi Pil’ with their reason being that the remains are “culturally unidentifiable.” According to the Lost Highways podcast (8) and Sapiens podcast (10), this is a common claim made by museums and other institutions that “allows” them to continue holding the remains rather than returning them to be properly buried.

The remains of Aptzāi Pil’ are currently in possession of the Texas Archaeological Research Laboratory (TARL) in Austin. NAGPRA, the Native American Graves Protection, and Repatriation Act require TARL to return Aptzāi Pil’ to her lineal descendants or Indian Tribe; but to date, TARL has not released Aptzāi Pil’.Please sign the petition to release and repatriate the remains of Aptziāi Pil from TARL. Learn more at https://indigenouscultures.org/reburial/ The Miakan-Garza tribe is seeking three of those remains for reburial.

“Our obligation, as native people, as Texas Indians, is to obtain possession of these ancestral remains and rebury them as close as possible to where they were unearthed.” — Dr. Mario Garza.

The Significance of Leander Legacy: Honoring Aptzāi Pil’ Symposium

Members of the City of Leander Mayors Ad Hoc Committee share why repatriation is important to them.

We don’t know much about the personal life of Aptzāi Pil’. But, we do know that she was someone’s daughter and someone’s granddaughter. There’s a very good chance, too, that she was also a sister, niece, friend, and mother. Her life mattered, and she was loved. Her ancestors, the Coahuiltecan people, believe she is in agony, needing her remains to return to Mother Earth and the natural process of her life cycle; and her spirit can then return to its spiritual journey to the Great Mystery. I have made a promise that I will support the effort to bring Aptzāi Pil’ home and to have a reburial and ceremony for her. - Jennifer Howell, Committee Chair

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Reburial of ancestral remainsPhoto byIndigenous Cultures Institute

The Miakan-Garza Band, a state legislature-recognized tribe of Texas and members of the original peoples of this area want to thank the Leander and surrounding communities for honoring our ancestor Aptzāi Pil’.  This ancient person and your commemoration of her life, represent our sacred relationship with each other. We all have ancestors who knew the natural way to live and the values of caring for each other and Mother Earth. Let us renew our covenant with those who lived before us and celebrate our shared humanity. The Leander Legacy: Honoring Aptzāi Pil’ Symposium will be held to learn more about supporting efforts toward repatriation and celebrating Native American and Indigenous culture. - María F. Rocha, Elder of the Miakan-Garza tribe

Community Connections

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Leander Legacy: Honoring Aptzāi Pil’ logoPhoto byJennifer Jones

The vision for Honoring Aptzāi Pil’ Symposium is to offer cultural education to raise awareness regarding repatriation efforts and celebrate Native American and Indigenous culture.

  • Dr. Mario Garza of the Miakan-Garza tribe will be the Keynote speaker on the topic of Repatriation
  • María F Rocha of the Miakan-Garza tribe will offer professional learning for teachers with a screening of Yana Wana’s Legend of the Bluebonnet
  • Jennifer Jones, a Caddo artist from Jones of Art designed the Leander Legacy: Honoring Aptzāi Pil’, her inspiration was Paleolithic art and the current City of Leander logo.
  • The San Gabriel Austin Community College campus is excited to partner to host the event and offer opportunities for students and the community to attend this special event.
I have lived in the city of Leander for 14 years. I am a Native American Caddo Nation descendant and think it is important to respectfully recognize the Native peoples and other cultures who preceded us in this area correctly. We should be mindful and grateful for their contributions or sacrifices for our way of life today. Repatriation encourages respect in the community, therefore I am an advocate. - Jennifer Jones, Caddo artist from Jones of Art
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Yana Wana's Legend of the Bluebonnet by Marïa F. RochaPhoto byIndigenous Cultures Institute

The committee and community partners are excited about this special event and have hopes for the future of Leander Legacy programs including:

  • Continued educational events that include annual exhibitions and ongoing programming sharing the true story of Central Texas Indigenous history and culture.
  • Design and creation of an installation of educational signage, public art, and a family area at the new South San Gabriel River Park that celebrates the Indigenous history and heritage of the region.
  • Continued support for the repatriation and proper burial of Aptzāi Pil’ until it is done.
  • Expanded partnerships across the Central Texas community.

Leander Legacy: Honoring Aptzāi Pil’ Symposium is free and open to the public, please bring a photo id to enter the campus. Reserve your tickets using this Eventbrite link.

There will be food available to purchase and continuing education credit for ACC students, teachers, and Scouts BSA. For more information please email: honoringaptzaipil@gmail.com

Sponsored by the City of Leander - Mayors Ad Hoc Committee in partnership with Austin Community College, the Indigenous Cultures Institute.

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