Story by Grayson Mask. Photos provided by Intertribal Community Council of Texas.
There is an organization in Dallas dedicated to serving as an advocate, a conduit, and a voice for Native Americans residing in the DFW metroplex.
The Intertribal Community Council of Texas (ICCT) aims to encourage awareness and community involvement while addressing injustice within the Native community. It does this by providing solutions, creating programs, and implementing initiatives that effectively meet the economic, medical, social, cultural, and educational needs of the people it represents.
Treasurer of the ICCT, Antonio Pacheka Valdez, says that the group originally came together because they were not satisfied with one of the clinics that serves Native Americans in the area.
“We realized we needed to have more of a voice or more of an input. We needed to form an organization and not just a community group. So that’s the route we went,” Antonio says.
In late 2019, the ICCT founding members became determined to advocate and spread awareness on issues that impact the quality of life of Native citizens. As a result, they filed for their official 501c3 status and started taking in more members.
“We have a wide range of people who are involved as members,” Antonio says. “Currently, our youngest member has just turned one, and our oldest member is probably late-70s. We have multiple tribes represented like Comanches, Cherokees, and Choctaw. We even have people that are not Native American in our group as well.”
With dedicated and passionate members, the organization decided its first official event would be an American Indian Community Cookout. Elders came out and visited with each other, and children played stickball, a Native American game that is a precursor to lacrosse. The founders also used this gathering to bring out new candidates for the Urban Inter-Tribal Center of Texas board. The concept of advocating for more representation in a fun environment was a huge success for the ICCT, so much so that the community cookout has become an annual event.
Another annual event the organization offers is the “Honor Our Elders” gathering and giveaway. At the end of the year, the ICCT brings together its elder members to enjoy a potluck dinner and receive fun giveaways like coats or blankets.
“Elders are a huge part of our community. I think being urban natives, being away from our homelands, it’s harder to maintain traditional values. But one thing we do have is respect for our elders. And that’s where this Honor Our Elders event came out of– a lot of times, especially here, we focus on our children, who are also extremely important in the Native community. But we felt like we were forgetting the elders because we didn’t have anything specifically for them,” Antonio says.
One ICCT elder, Pat Peterson, brought an idea to the board’s attention that would become their biggest event to date. Pat mentioned how other cities have attempted Native art festivals in the past and that the ICCT would really benefit from hosting a two-day event in Dallas. As a result, the ICCT secured partnerships and grants from businesses like Winstar World Casino and Ranger Bail Bonds, which made the event possible.
In April 2023, the inaugural ICCT American Indian Art Festival was held, allowing attendees to view Native American visual and performance artists for free. At the Latino Cultural Center in Dallas, people could visit Native community booths, try contemporary Native foods, and bid in silent auctions for authentic Native artwork.
“We had some Navajo tribal members from a reservation in New Mexico. Their artwork and their jewelry were a big hit. People also loved our speakers like Jodi Voice Yellowfish, who spoke about the crisis with the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women TX Rematriate,” says ICCT secretary Veronica Arredondo.
While the group had a positive reception of the event and have even bigger ideas for the future, their current funding has hindered them from taking on more large-scale projects. The ICCT’s most common fundraisers are bingo nights and food sales events, where attendees can purchase traditional dishes like Pashofa and Corn Soup. While these have been successful, it has not been enough to fund the $5,000-$25,000 projects the board is passionate about.
“One of our goals, especially now that we’re getting larger and getting able to do more, is to reach funds that are not from the community. We don’t want to take from our community to put back into our community,” Antonio says.
Another goal for next year is to find a concrete location for regular meetings. Currently, one of the ICCT’s chairmen offers one of his business spaces for meetings. Due to the growing attendance of more than 30 active members and regular perishable donations, a larger space with refrigeration is highly needed.
Despite funding and logistical challenges, the group is optimistic about their inclusion and representation in larger projects.
“Whenever there was a citywide event, like an Irving-held diversity summit, we would attend, and that was their first time realizing our organization existed. And ever since then, especially after the American Indian Art Festival, they’ve invited us over and over and wanted our input,” Veronica says.
This unified effort will allow the ICCT to continue providing activities and resources to the community in a way that meaningfully brings Native voices to the forefront.
If you want to learn more or get involved, you can check out the Intertribal Community Council of Texas website here.