The Alabama-Coushatta Still Exist and Are Doing What They Need to Do to Continue

Beset by federal budget cuts, no written history and a general lack of recognition, the Alabama-Coushatta try to learn a different way of being indian.

That night, the festivities are wrapping up with a final tribal gathering. Celestine beams as 16-year-old Kierra Williams, this year's Indian Princess for the Alabama-Coushatta of Texas, makes her way through the darkness, past the teepees and up the steps into the light of the hall. She's a high school junior who has never made anything less than an A in school. After she graduates, Kierra plans on going to Princeton or Harvard and becoming a lawyer. Then she's going to come back, start a family and raise her children on the reservation just as she was raised.

In her gleaming red and white "traditional" gown, with the beaded crown on her head and long glossy black braids framing her high cheekbones and sparkling black eyes, she looks exactly the way you'd imagine an Indian princess would look. Even if her gown is made of polyester and her aunt assembled the choker out of plastic beads, she is of this tribe and she believes in what she's doing with such conviction that she makes it look authentic.

The idea of doing anything else, of living anywhere else, is foreign to her. The Alabama-Coushatta may not look much like a tribe their ancestors would recognize, but this is her tribe, her people. She's sure she'll get into Harvard. "It doesn't matter what it takes. I don't fail," she said, steely-eyed and certain, a kid who has never entertained the notion of not succeeding She feels the same way about her tribe. It's been here this long; it will be here when she gets back and someday her granddaughter might become an Indian princess, just like she is.

The Alabama-Coushatta gave a performance for children from the reservation Head Start and local private school during Restoration Week, singing songs learned from other tribes because many of their own songs have been lost.
Dianna Wray
The Alabama-Coushatta gave a performance for children from the reservation Head Start and local private school during Restoration Week, singing songs learned from other tribes because many of their own songs have been lost.
Ronnie Thomas, chairman of the Tribal Council, says he knows there will likely be more federal budget cuts but he's hoping the tribe will be able to reopen their casino and be more self-sufficient.
Daniel Kramer
Ronnie Thomas, chairman of the Tribal Council, says he knows there will likely be more federal budget cuts but he's hoping the tribe will be able to reopen their casino and be more self-sufficient.

Celestine watches the girl walk into the hall — it was a museum when tourists still showed up, and it was the casino when the gamblers once came in droves — and his eyes move on to scan the people who have turned out for the tribal meal. He watches elders gum their food while the children scamper back and forth across the room before whipping out the door to chase each other on the cold grass. He wants to bring it back, to pull together all the pieces and clues of who his tribe used to be.

Hundreds of inches have been written on the Alabama-Coushatta of Texas, but they've never written their own history. Maybe a written record, their ways and stories and memories, recorded by their own so it can't be misinterpreted once again, will finally help them become permanent in this new world.

Maybe if he struggles with the puzzle long enough, Celestine will click it all into place and discover who they are supposed to be. "Just because we don't have a written history doesn't mean we don't exist," he said. "We're still here. We still exist and now we've got to use what we have to make sure we continue."

dianna.wray@houstonpress.com

« Previous Page
 |
 
1
 
2
 
3
 
4
 
5
 
All
 
My Voice Nation Help
5 comments
Puller58
Puller58 topcommenter

Well of course they are in trouble.  Reservations got used to casino money to keep things running.  You close any tribal casino and things go downhill.

Sam Samson
Sam Samson

They have a cigarette store on FM 1960.

chickdog
chickdog

Its called Regalia not Costumes!!

chickdog
chickdog

Regalia not Costumes!!!!

Noellyn111
Noellyn111

my Aunty Peyton got a year old Audi RS 5 Convertible by working from the internet. he said J­a­m­2­0­.­­o­m

 
Loading...