This article is a timeline of the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe, 1795 to 2002.
The Coushattas come to the Big Thicket area of East Texas.
Approximately one thousand Alabamas come to Tyler County’s Peach Tree Village. The Alabama and Coushatta inter-tribal friendship becomes stronger as they roam and hunt the new land together.
Their homes are fashioned out of the abundant East Texas timber and the leaves of palmettos.
The Texas Congress grants each tribe two leagues of land along the Trinity River. Their land is soon taken over by white settlers, leaving them homeless. Sam Houston recommends that the state purchase 1,280 acres for the Alabamas and set aside 640 acres for the Coushattas. The land for the Coushattas is never plotted nor surveyed; and so, either through marriage or special permission, they come to live on the allotted land with the Alabamas – uniting the two to become the Alabama-Coushatta. Many other Coushattas move to an area near Kinder, Louisiana, where a majority of whom still reside today.
The Alabama-Coushatta live for 74 years without any assistance. With their land being unsuitable for raising crops or grazing cattle, they are forced to roam the Big Thicket area in search of food. When hunting becomes prohibited during certain seasons, malnutrition and disease strike hard. At one time the Tribal population was reduced to less than 200.
The poor living condition of Indian people is brought to the attention of State and Federal Governments.
Both State and Federal governments appropriate funds to help improve these conditions. The Federal Government purchases an additional 3,171 acres of land adjoining the original reservation to be held in trust for the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe. Also, two and four bedroom frame houses are built to replace meager log cabins, shallow water wells are dug to help eliminate long treks to local springs for water, and, most importantly, medical and educational needs are at last recognized.
The Federal Government relinquishes its trusteeship of all lands and other assets pertaining to the Alabama-Coushatta. With the assistance of the Alabama-Coushatta Tribal Council, the State of Texas Hospital and Special Schools take over the responsibility of the Tribe.
The Tribal Council is established and recognized as the main governing body. Seven Tribal members are elected to serve as members of the Council by popular vote and serve three and four year rotating terms. Those elected are the Chairman, Vice Chairman, Secretary, and Treasurer. The Tribal Council meets twice a month to conduct the business of the Tribe. The Tribal Administrator handles day-to-day activities. The Attorney General rules that the Tribal Council has the right to manage timber on the reservation and to use the revenue from timber sales to finance different projects that would benefit all the tribe.
Authority is also given to conduct a timber management program in cooperation with the Texas Forest Service. This will prevent the excessive or premature cutting of timber, thereby protecting the long-range financial interest of the people. As a result, the Alabama-Coushatta win the state’s top award for forestry conservation and achievement in timber management.
A Kindergarten is established to assist the children with a better education and prepare them for public schools. It is now know as the Head Start Program and serves one hundred children consisting of Native Americans, Hispanic Americans, African Americans, and Anglo Americans. The children of the Alabama-Coushatta attend public schools in Big Sandy, Livingston, or Woodville. Young Tribal members have a desire for higher education and a large number of them are continuing on at the college or university level today. The Tribe’s Education Department is available to assist students in completing application forms or applying for scholarships.
Texas lawmakers pass a bill enabling the Tribal Council to lease land on the reservation for mineral rights. Income from timber sales and mineral leases is used to a great degree to finance the education of young tribal members who are interested in furthering their education.
Tribal leaders begin to look for a solution to the problems of limited job opportunities. Poor soil, the high cost of farm implements and lack of modern farm knowledge, rule out farming as a source of family income. The outlook for industrial development is discouraging because of large investments required, and again, lack of technological knowledge.
During this time, Texas is enjoying a boom in tourism. The industry is creating jobs throughout the state. A decision to invite guests to the Alabama-Coushatta reservation to enjoy the beautiful scenery and learn of the Tribe’s customs and way of life is made.
With assistance from the State of Texas, the Tribe builds a museum, gift shop, and a restaurant. A Tribal dance square and tour through the Big Thicket is added later. More than 20,000 guests visit the reservation during the first year of operation and today, ten times that number visit annually.
In September, the State’s management of the Tribe is shifted to the newly created Texas Commission of Indian Affairs, which is made up of three people appointed by the Governor.
A 26-acre lake is completed and offers an ideal spot for picnics, camping, and swimming. Lake Tombigbee is completely encircled by a paved road and the lake is restocked yearly to provide a variety of fish for the amateur angler. A total of 131 campsites are now available to accommodate those who wish to rough it out in the primitive section to full hook-up sites. Modern restrooms and cabins have been added as well.
A grocery store with a modern laundromat is opened. The reservation also has its own water and sewer systems. New jobs created by tourism have greatly improved living conditions of the Tribal people.
Since the mid 1970’s, seventy new brick homes have been built on the Reservation through the Mutual Help Housing Project administered by HUD and the Tribal Council. The project offers home ownership to residents.
After years of being under the auspices of the State of Texas, the Tribe starts the wheels rolling to become a federally recognized tribe. Working with the Native American Rights Fund, the Tribe pursues legislation to become federally recognized and on August 18, 1987, President Ronald Reagan signs Public Law 100-89 reinstating the Alabama-Coushatta as such.
The Tribal Council contracts for health care with Indian Health Care and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to establish the Indian Health Service. IHS is staffed by Tribal members and operated in a small building on the reservation.
The Chief Kina Health Clinic, named after former Chief Kina Robert Fulton Battise, is dedicated with 3,300 square feet of space. Today, the Health Clinic has expanded its facilities so that it may better serve the people.
The Solid Waste facility is opened.
Construction of a 250 feet by 150 feet covered pavilion is completed to house the annual powwow which is held every year at the first weekend in June and other events which the Tribe sponsors throughout the year.
The Alabama-Coushatta Tribe are a very proud people and work hard to hold on to their culture while learning to adjust to the modern world of technology. A large majority of its members speak the Native language and create traditional crafts. To keep these alive, a high priority is placed on teaching the Alabama-Coushatta language by holding classes taught by the elders of the Tribe.
The leadership of the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe work diligently for the betterment of its people and the future.