Alabama-Coushatta Indians

By: Howard N. Martin

Type: General Entry

Published: 1976

Updated: September 29, 2020

The Alabama-Coushatta Indian Tribe of Texas, Incorporated, occupies a 4,593.7-acre reservation on U.S. Highway 190, seventeen miles east of Livingston in Polk County. In 2005 the names of more than 1,000 Alabama-Coushattas were recorded on the tribal roll, of whom approximately 500 lived on the reservation. Although recognized as two separate tribes, the Alabamas and Coushattas have been closely associated throughout their history. Both are of Muskhogean language stock. Both lived in adjacent areas in what is now Alabama, followed similar migration routes westward after 1763, and settled in the same area of the Big Thicket in Southeast Texas. Culturally, these two tribes have always been one people in spite of minor differences. Their languages are mutually understandable, although some differences occur in individual words. Their closest tie has been that of blood as intermarriage between the tribes has been practiced since earliest times. An early interpretation of Alabama indicated that the name meant "Here we rest." This explanation was generally accepted until T. M. Owen, director of the Alabama State Department of Archives and History, pointed out in 1921 that the name is derived from a combination of words meaning "vegetation gatherers." Coushatta is a popular form of "Koasati," which probably contains the words for "cane," "reed," or "white cane."

The first written references to the Alabamas, dated 1541, relate the contacts of the explorer Hernando De Soto with these Indians, probably in the future state of Mississippi. After De Soto, the Alabamas were lost to view until the appearance of the French in the region bordering the Gulf of Mexico. The Alabamas, who had migrated eastward during the intervening century and a half, then lived near the junction of the Coosa and Tallapoosa Rivers, the two main tributaries of the Alabama River. The Coushattas also moved to this area and established villages among those of the Alabamas. Beginning north of the site of present Montgomery, Alabama, the villages of the Alabamas and Coushattas extended southward for forty miles on both sides of the Alabama River. Both tribes were members of the Upper Creek Confederacy—the name given to a loose organization built around a group of dominant tribes called Creek or Muskogee in what is now Alabama. One of the principal objectives of the Creek Confederacy seems to have been to achieve a defensive alliance against certain enemies—including the Choctaw and Chickasaw Indians in what is now Mississippi and western Alabama and the Cherokee Indians in Tennessee.

While the French were establishing themselves at Mobile, they became involved in skirmishes with the Alabama and Mobile tribes. Peace was soon established, however, and thereafter the Alabamas remained loyal to French interests. This friendship was cemented in 1714 by the establishment of Fort Toulouse in the heart of the Alabama-Coushatta homeland. When it was built in 1714, the fort became a cause of great anxiety to the English in the region. It was also a depot for exchange of French articles for skins and other products, brought by the Indians from their hunting grounds and then floated down the Alabama River to the sea at Mobile. Papers of French governor Sieur de Bienville provide information relating to the French-Alabama friendship and the rivalry between the English and French for the loyalty of the Alabamas, Coushattas, and other Indians in the vicinity. Bienville wrote that "the Alabamas have the reputation among all nations of being people of intelligence and of good counsel...of all the Indians...most attached to the interests of the French." The Alabama River and the state of Alabama were named for the Alabama Indians.

In 1763 Alabamas and Coushattas began migrating from the Fort Toulouse area for several possible reasons. The development of a "deerskin economy" among North American Indians, brought about by trade with Europeans, had led to shortage of animals and conflict over hunting territories, resulting in a constant search for improved hunting conditions. In the short run, trade with Europeans helped the Indians obtain supplies and equipment. But they became dependent upon traders to furnish many items they needed, and their increased skin-hunting brought a disastrous shortage of game comparable to the disappearance of the buffalo on the plains. Moreover, settlers were pressing inland along the Atlantic coast. In 1763 the struggle between England and France for supremacy in America ended, and control of formerly French territory—including the Alabama-Coushatta homeland—passed to the English. When English administrative officials and settlers began arriving in the Fort Toulouse area, substantial numbers of Indians in this region began moving westward. In this movement they followed their French friends to Louisiana, where they expected better treatment from the Spanish. According to Charles Martin Thompson, chief of the Alabama-Coushattas from 1928 to 1935, it is unlikely that the Indians moved in a mass exodus; rather, they probably traveled in family or clan groups and left Alabama sporadically after 1763. Thompson also stated that they most likely traveled down the Alabama River to avoid the country of the Choctaws, their bitter enemies in western Alabama, Mississippi, and eastern Louisiana. One small group attempted to detour by the Tombigbee River but was driven back by the Choctaws. After descending the Alabama River to Mobile, the Alabamas and Coushattas probably used a well-known protected route along the coasts of Alabama and Mississippi, across lakes Pontchartrain and Maurepas, up the Amite River, and finally through the Iberville or Bayou Manchac to a spot on the Mississippi River about fourteen miles below Baton Rouge. After entering Louisiana about 1766 the mainstream of Alabama and Coushatta movement was westward across the southern part of the future state of Louisiana. However, small groups of both tribes established villages along the Red River and in other sections of Louisiana. In the early nineteenth century Governor William C. C. Claiborne reported that in 1766 a small group of Alabamas had settled near Opelousas but that a larger number had established homes on the Sabine River.

The Coushattas settled first on Bayou Chicot. In the 1780s some of them moved across the Sabine River and settled on the Trinity River in Texas. Others moved to a site on the Sabine River eighty miles southwest of Natchitoches, Louisiana. A small group of Coushattas settled on the Red River north of Natchitoches. The Pakana branch of the Muskogee or Creek Indian tribe had lived among the Alabamas and Coushattas in the Fort Toulouse area and migrated westward after 1763. In 1797 the Pakana Muskogees were located on the Calcasieu River about fifty miles southeast of the Coushatta village on the Sabine River.

In the 1780s Alabamas and Coushattas began moving across the Sabine River into Spanish Texas. There they found a welcome since the Spanish considered Texas the outer cordon standing guard against first the French and then, after 1803, the Americans. In 1800 Napoleon attempted to reestablish the French empire in America. Three years later he sold Louisiana to the United States. Immediately after the Louisiana Purchase, the United States began to pursue a policy of friendly relations with the Indians in the new territory. On February 4, 1804, Edward Turner was given a commission for the District of Natchitoches. A few months later he informed Governor Claiborne that certain Indians in the vicinity had visited him and said the Spaniards had given them presents. They now wished the same from the Americans. Turner recommended the establishment of American factories at Natchitoches to lure the Indians' allegiance away from Spain. From the Spanish point of view, maintenance of the Texas defense line depended substantially upon the loyal service of friendly Indian tribes between the Trinity and Sabine rivers. Only about thirty cavalrymen, operating from Nacogdoches, were usually available to patrol the long border between Texas and Louisiana as well as the Old San Antonio Road and the Atascosito Road into the Texas interior. Indians were needed to assist the Spanish regulars. Accordingly, Spain appropriated large sums of money to buy clothing, medals, guns, axes, knives, and other items for the Indians. These gifts were presented to Indians who visited Nacogdoches, the Spanish headquarters in East Texas.

In 1805 Dr. John Sibley was asked to serve as United States agent to keep the Indians in the vicinity of Natchitoches friendly toward the American government. He advocated alliances with the Indians and, like Turner, the establishment of an Indian factory at Natchitoches to divert Indian trade from the Spanish factory at Nacogdoches. Sibley made advantageous trade arrangements for the Indians and also distributed various types of gifts among them. His trading post was a popular gathering point for Indians in the area. There the Alabamas and Coushattas expressed loyalty to the Americans and received gifts. Then, at the first opportunity, they would travel to Nacogdoches for Spanish gifts and friendship. Both tribes probably understood that the Spanish and the Americans were engaged in a tug-of-war for their loyalty, and they capitalized on the opportunities intrinsic to this conflict. Soon, however, strained relations developed between the Indians and the White population of Louisiana. Each group accused the other of murdering members of its community. Representatives of the White population asked for the assistance of the militia, but Louisiana governor Claiborne refused this request. Instead, he called for a calm approach and took steps to avoid war.

Meanwhile, Alabamas and Coushattas had been moving into the Big Thicket region of Spanish Texas since the 1780s. There they found an awesome jungle-like wilderness that early observers said covered most of the area between the Sabine and Brazos rivers. Travel through much of this region was so difficult that the Spanish skirted the northern edge of the Big Thicket when they laid out the road from Nacogdoches to San Antonio. The Atascosito Road provided an alternate route into Texas along the southern boundary of this wilderness. For the incoming Alabamas and Coushattas, this unique natural region was an excellent hunting and gathering area with an abundant food supply that supported many kinds of animals, birds, and fish. It was a barrier to prospective settlers. The Indian newcomers developed a material culture adapted to the characteristics of the Big Thicket, where they could be relatively free from Spanish or other interference.

The earliest Alabama hunting camps, rancherías, and villages were located along Attoyac Bayou, the Angelina River, and the Neches River. In 1830 the Alabamas lived in three communities in what is now northwestern Tyler County. The largest and most prominent of these was Peach Tree Village, located about two miles north of the site of present Chester. The Alabama Trace and the Coushatta Trace passed through this village, and it was the northern terminus of the Long King Trace. Fenced-In Village ranked second in importance among the Alabama tribal settlements in the Big Thicket. It was located on the Liberty-Nacogdoches Road about five miles southeast of Peach Tree Village in northwestern Tyler County. Another Alabama community, Cane Island Village, was between Peach Tree Village and Fort Teran on the Neches River, about twenty-two miles northwest of the site of present Woodville. In 1830 about 600 Coushattas lived in three communities on or near the Trinity River. The Upper Coushatta Village (Battise Village) was located where the Coushatta Trace crossed the Trinity in what is now San Jacinto County, on the opposite side of the River from the future site of Onalaska, Polk County. The site is now under Lake Livingston. Long King's Village, the Middle Coushatta Village, was located at the confluence of Tempe Creek and Long King Creek, approximately two miles north of the site of Lake Livingston Dam on the Trinity River. In the Lower Coushatta Village lived Colita, one of the best-known Indian leaders in East Texas, who succeeded Long King as principal chief of the Coushattas. Colita's Village was located on the Logan league in a great bend of the Trinity River—the "Shirt-tail Bend," as the steamboat sailors named it—now in San Jacinto County. Typically, an Alabama-Coushatta village was actually a community in which cabins were located in a succession of neighborhoods scattered for miles through the woods and along streams and connected by a network of trails. Cabins were usually grouped in family or clan units, with adequate land around each cabin for cultivating vegetables and growing fruit trees. Near the center of each community was a square used for a variety of governmental, social, entertainment, and religious activities. Alabamas and Coushattas relied primarily upon hunting, gathering, fishing, and vegetable cultivation for subsistence. The search for food was continuous, and members of these tribes used their trails and water routes extensively to obtain food. Both tribes prospered. In 1809 the combined population of Alabamas and Coushattas within seventy miles of Nacogdoches totaled approximately 1,650.

To facilitate land travel through their wilderness territory, the Alabamas and Coushattas developed a remarkable network of trails. These traces were usually laid as straight as practical between villages or other terminals. In many instances, they followed ridges between the drainage basins of streams, thus avoiding major water crossings. The proximity to streams made fresh water available. The density of most of the Big Thicket underscored the importance of this network: travel through the region was impractical except along the Alabama and Coushatta trails. It is ironic that these trails expedited the penetration of White settlers into this region and thus contributed to the later deterioration of the Alabama-Coushatta culture. Moreover, field notes of the earliest land grants now in Polk County and several adjoining counties show that most of the original White settlers in the area selected homesites along the Indian trails.

During the early decades of the nineteenth century, Antone served as principal chief of the Alabamas, and Long King served in the same capacity for the Coushattas. Before the Alabama-Coushatta tribal council was organized in the 1930s, most governmental affairs were in the hands of the principal chief. His duties included serving as tribal spokesman, representing the tribe at meetings and functions, serving as moral leader, settling disputes, keeping tribal records including deeds to land, leading religious and educational activities, assigning land to individuals, directing hunts, calling meetings, throwing out balls to begin ballgames, and directing dances.

Both tribes preferred to remain at peace with their neighbors, but proved to be effective warriors when forced to fight. For many years the Alabamas and Coushattas defended their territory in Alabama, especially against the Choctaws, and their record indicates that they readily fought any enemy when necessary. John Sibley mentioned that Alabamas and Coushattas had participated in raids against the Osages, had taken Osage scalps, and had returned horses the Osages had stolen from the Caddos. Jean Louis Berlandier wrote in 1830 that hunting and farming were principal occupations of the Alabamas, but that they "can be just as warlike as their neighbors." Coushattas participated in the Mexican War of Independence in 1812–13; their bravery and skill were mentioned by several chroniclers of the fighting around San Antonio in this rebellion against Spain. Stephen F. Austin, in the administration of his Texas colony, was aware of the Alabamas' and Coushattas' military capabilities, and his plans for campaigns against the Karankawa Indians and the Nacogdoches-area Fredonians usually included use of these two tribes. Gen. Sam Houston also planned to utilize the fighting ability of the Alabamas and Coushattas in the Texas Revolution. Early in 1836 Houston's army was retreating eastward across Texas, pursued by the Mexican army under Santa Anna. Many Texas settlers fled toward the Sabine River in this "Runaway Scrape." As the revolutionary army marched toward San Jacinto, Houston sent a delegation to ask the Alabamas and Coushattas for assistance. The tribes could provide about 250 warriors, and this group was the only noncommitted fighting force with any chance to arrive at San Jacinto in time to participate in the impending battle. The delegation dispatched by General Houston to negotiate for the services of the Alabamas and Coushattas arrived at Long King's Village several days before the battle of San Jacinto. The delegation brought a message from Houston and tried to persuade the Indians to join the army. While the discussions were proceeding, the battle of San Jacinto was fought, and the services of the Indians were no longer needed by the Texas army. Although the Alabamas and Coushattas did not participate militarily in the war, they were generous in their efforts to feed and care for settlers who passed through their villages in the Runaway Scrape. The Coushattas, however, did not entirely escape the turbulence of the 1836–39 period. In 1839 a Comanche raiding party approached the Long King Village from the north. Coushattas met the Comanches in the valley of Long King Creek and, in a fiercely fought battle, defeated the invaders who were forced to retreat.

After Texas won independence in 1836, the government of the republic confronted a multitude of problems, including formulating an Indian policy. President Houston's plans for the Indian population provided for peace, friendship, trade, and frontier protection. Mirabeau B. Lamar, who succeeded Houston as president, adopted a program that included exterminating the hostile tribes and removing friendly tribes from the republic or moving them to reservations in Texas. It is remarkable that Lamar's harsh policy was not applied to the Alabamas and Coushattas. While all other East Texas tribes were removed, Lamar expressed friendship toward these two tribes, requested White settlers in the Trinity River area to respect their rights, and appointed an agent to assist them in their relations with their neighbors. Furthermore, in 1840—during Lamar's administration—the Republic of Texas Congress granted each of these two tribes two leagues of land. When surveyors came to survey the land, the Alabamas, thinking the grant was for White settlers, departed for other homesites, leaving their hogs, cattle, and 200 acres of fenced land suitable for cultivation. The Coushattas fared no better. One league of their land included Colita's Village, and the other included the Battise Village. The two leagues were surveyed and the field notes were filed, but the grants never became effective; White settlers had already claimed the land.

After leaving Fenced-In Village, the Alabamas drifted southward and formed a settlement near the junction of Big and Little Cypress creeks. Next, they lived briefly at a site on Woods Creek called Rock Village. On October 29, 1853, Chief Antone, the tribal subchiefs, and prominent citizens of Polk County presented a petition to the Texas legislature requesting land for a reservation. It was approved, and the state of Texas purchased 1,110.7 acres of land for the Alabama Indian reservation. About 500 tribe members settled on this land during the winter of 1854–55. In 1855 the Texas legislature appropriated funds to purchase 640 acres for the Coushattas. Because suitable open land was no longer available in Polk County, however, this grant remained only a scrap of paper. With the permission of the Alabamas, most of the Coushattas settled on the Alabamas' reservation in 1859. When the state attempted to move the Polk County Indians to the Lower Brazos Reserve in 1858, Indian Agent James Barclay rode across Texas on horseback with a delegation of Alabamas and Coushattas to inspect the new reservation. The Lower Brazos Reserve was a barren, dreary land compared to the forested hills of their Polk County reservation. The Indian leaders told Barclay that they did not want to move from East Texas.

The Polk County Indians played only a minor role in the Civil War. John Scott, later chief of the Alabama-Coushattas, and nineteen members of his tribe were sworn into Confederate service on April 11, 1862. After serving briefly in Company G, Twenty-fourth Texas Cavalry, at Arkansas Post, they returned home and were organized by Capt. William H. Beazley into a cavalry company unattached to any regiment. In December 1864 this company listed 132 men on its roster and was part of the Sixth Brigade, Second Texas Infantry. The primary job of this new organization was to construct and operate flat-bottom boats for transporting farm produce to the Confederate forces along the Gulf Coast. Beazley's cavalrymen built most of their scows at Magnolia, a Trinity River port in Anderson County. Each boat, manned by an Indian crew, moved slowly downriver, stopping at plantation landings to pick up produce and other supplies requisitioned by Confederate authorities. At Liberty the boatmen delivered the boats and supplies to Confederate officials. To return upriver after each trip, the Indian cavalrymen-sailors rode horses driven to Liberty by their sons. Through no fault of their own, the Polk County Indians did not fight as a group in any battles of the war. In helping to move key military supplies, however, they contributed to the success of Confederate forces along the Texas Gulf Coast. Texas governors Francis R. Lubbock and Pendleton Murrah commented favorably on the service of the Polk County Indians, and the state legislature provided funds to pay the salary of an agent for them from 1861 to 1865.

After 1865, however, the Indians had a home but little else. Few could speak English effectively, and few could find jobs. The state government was busy with other matters, primarily with problems of Reconstruction. A great tide of settlers sweeping west brought bitter fighting between Whites and such warlike tribes as the Apaches, Comanches, and Sioux. One result was the development of a negative attitude among the settlers toward most Indians, and it was difficult to arouse public sympathy for the Polk County Indians. In 1866 Texas governor James W. Throckmorton proposed in vain that the United States government assume guardianship of the Indians in Polk County. During the administration of Edmund J. Davis, another effort was made to give the Indians federal protection, and in 1870 they were placed under military jurisdiction. Capt. Samuel M. Whitside, commander of the federal military post of Livingston, reported that the Polk County Indians needed an agent for their protection and volunteered to serve in the role until other arrangements could be made. The 1870s brought rapid deterioration in the Alabama-Coushatta culture. The influx of White settlers, the clearing of forests, and the plowing of farmland nearly destroyed the hunting, fishing, and gathering practices of the Indians, who were forced either to rely primarily on farming their limited, worn-out reservation lands or to seek employment outside the reservation. In February 1873 a bill was introduced in the United States House of Representatives to remove the Alabama, Coushatta, and Pakana Muskogee Indians from Texas to the Creek Nation in Oklahoma. The bill required that the proposed removal be approved by the Polk County Indians. There is no record that the proposal was approved by them, however, and the secretary of the interior recommended against passage of the bill. In 1876 the Alabamas discovered that they did not have title to 263 acres they had been occupying as part of their reservation. This tract had been surveyed for them in 1854, but the surveyor failed to file the necessary field notes with the General Land Office. The tract was included subsequently in a grant of land to the International–Great Northern Railroad, although the Alabamas continued to occupy the area. The Polk County Indians' fortunes continued to decline, and neither the national government nor the state of Texas seemed willing to help. In the fourth quarter of the nineteenth century the indifference of the United States toward the Indians was so complete that the Bureau of Indian Affairs did not bother even to make a count of the Indian residents in Polk County. For many years the bureau simply reported the same total number of Indians—290—in the county. The state government made no move to help. The Alabamas and Coushattas reached the lowest point of their history in 1879 when the state abolished the post of agent for them.

After 1880 the picture began to brighten. This period was marked by three factors that had a vast influence on the Alabamas, Coushattas, and Pakana Muskogees. The first was construction of a Houston–Shreveport railroad that passed through Polk County. The Houston East and West Texas Railroad reached Polk County in 1881 and opened the gate for development of the lumber industry. Many of the Indians soon became expert in lumbering jobs. As sawmills spread through the Big Thicket, so did opportunities for employment; many Indian families had steady cash incomes for the first time in their history. Job opportunities in the timber industry became increasingly important in subsequent years. Even more important was the coming of Christianity and education. The first Presbyterian mission was established on the Alabama-Coushatta reservation in Polk County in 1881, and since that time the church has played a major role in the lives of these Indians. Early missionaries were ministers, teachers, doctors, nurses, and friends, and their total impact was beyond measure.

The third prominent influence at this turning point was the work of J. C. Feagin, an attorney from Livingston who demonstrated his interest in the local Indians by maintaining a constant barrage of letters, reports, demands, and appeals on their behalf to public officials on every level of state and national government until his death in 1927. Feagin convinced Congressman Samuel Bronson Cooper that assistance should be provided for the Polk County Indians. Cooper introduced a bill in January 1896 and again in March 1897 to grant 25,000 acres to the Alabama-Coushattas. The commissioner of Indian affairs reported unfavorably on the bill both times, and it failed both times. In an act of April 1910 the Sixty-first Congress directed the Department of the Interior to investigate the status of the Alabama Indians in Texas. William Loker was appointed commissioner. In his report, Loker opined that the principal needs of these Indians were more land and a school with manual training. He added that if they had about 5,000 acres, they would be able to compete successfully with their White neighbors in farming and stock raising and could become self-sufficient. Congress did nothing for the Polk County Indians in 1910, but Feagin had succeeded in bringing the Indians to the attention of the national government. His efforts constituted a successful opening phase of a campaign that involved, in subsequent years, the work of many other interested persons to improve dramatically the lot of the Alabama-Coushattas.

In the years after Loker's report, several requests for federal assistance for the Alabama-Coushatta Indians were submitted, a number of them by Feagin. Chief Clerk Hauke wrote the commissioner of Indian affairs suggesting the purchase of land, farm equipment, a school, a hospital, and a demonstration farm. In the next year Congress appropriated $8,000 for education and for investigation about whether to purchase land for the Alabama-Coushattas. In a report to Secretary of the Interior Franklin K. Lane of September 1918, Inspector James McLaughlin recommended an appropriation of $100,000 for the purchase of lands for the Alabama-Coushattas. In 1928 Clem Fain, Jr., of Livingston was appointed Texas agent for the Alabama-Coushattas, and he continued the campaign to focus public attention on them. Early in 1928 he accompanied principal chief Charles Martin Thompson and second chief McConnico Battise to Washington to appeal for assistance. This campaign was successful: in June 1928 Congress appropriated $40,000 for the Alabama-Coushattas. Of this amount, $29,000 was used for the purchase of 3,071 acres of land adjoining the original reservation, and the remainder was spent primarily for horses, cattle, hogs, and livestock feed. The deed for this additional land was issued to the Alabama and Coushatta tribes, and the name "Alabama-Coushatta" has been used since 1928 as the official title of the enlarged reservation. In 1929 the state of Texas appropriated $47,000 for the construction of a gymnasium, a hospital, a home for the reservation administrator, and twenty-five cottages.

In a report to the commissioner of Indian affairs in 1931, special commissioner Roy Nash recommended that Alabama-Coushatta affairs be left to the state of Texas. The state Board of Control served as the supervising board until September 1, 1950, when the Board for Texas State Hospitals and Special Schools was given the administration of all state institutions and agencies classed as eleemosynary. From 1929 to July 1, 1955, trusteeship of the Alabama-Coushatta reservation was in the hands of the federal government. In June 1934 Congress passed what has been termed the Indian Reorganization Act which authorized Indian tribes to organize for their welfare, as individual tribes or with other tribes living on the same reservation. Specifically, the act gave the tribes the right to incorporate under a federal charter which was to become effective when ratified by a majority vote of the adult Indians living on a reservation. The Alabama and Coushatta Indians were organized under the act as a single tribe with both a constitution and charter. The constitution and bylaws for the corporation were approved on August 19, 1938, and the charter was ratified by the Alabama-Coushattas on October 17, 1939. By means of a quitclaim deed effective July 1, 1955, the federal government relinquished the trusteeship of the Alabama-Coushatta land and other assets, and the state of Texas assumed full responsibility. The state's trusteeship of the Alabama-Coushattas continued until August 1987, when the state withdrew as trustee and the federal government assumed full responsibility for the Polk County Indians.

The governing body under the Alabama-Coushatta constitution and by-laws is the Tribal Council, composed of seven members elected by tribe members. The chief of the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe is an advisory member and votes only to break a tie. The officers of the Tribal Council are chairman, vice chairman, secretary, and treasurer. All are selected by the Tribal Council from its own membership at the first meeting of the newly elected council.

The Alabama-Coushattas passed other milestones in 1924 when American Indians became citizens; in 1934, when the Polk County Indians formed a school district; in World War II, when forty-seven tribe members served in the armed forces (Indians had not been allowed to serve in World War I); in 1948, when the Texas attorney general confirmed the voting rights of the Alabama-Coushattas; in 1963, when the state allocated $40,000 to finance a museum, a restaurant, and an arts and crafts shop on the reservation; in 1970, when construction began on new brick homes as a Mutual Help Housing Project administered by the Department of Housing and Urban Development; in 1975, when a Multipurpose Community Center was built to house the tribal kindergarten program, adult education, library, youth activities, counseling, vocational training, and recreational activities; in 1988, when the Tribal Council contracted for health care from the Indian Health Service of the Department of Health and Human Services and the Bureau of Indian Affairs began providing social and economic programs on the reservation, especially adult vocational training and scholarships; in 1989, when the Chief Kina (Robert Fulton Battise) Medical Center was dedicated; and in 1994, when ground was broken for the large, multipurpose Alabama-Coushatta Cultural Center. A solid waste facility was opened in 1997, and in 2002 a covered pavilion was constructed. The Alabama-Coushatta Tribe celebrated their sesquicentennial with a powwow in February 2005, marking 150 years of settlement on the land that became their reservation. Clayton Sylestine was first chief, and Clem Sylestine was second chief of the Alabama-Coushattas in 2005. The reservation includes two churches, the First Indian Presbyterian and the First Assembly of God. The reservation also contains several shops—a smoke shop, souvenir shop, and truck stop—as well as recreational campgrounds that receive more than 200,000 visitors each year. Campsites, picnic areas, and nature trails center around Lake Tombigbee, a twenty-six-acre reservoir. The Alabama-Coushatta Indians host an annual powwow during the first weekend of June.

Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas (, accessed April 18, 2005. Frederick Frederick Webb Hodge, ed., Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico (2 vols., Washington: GPO, 1907, 1910; rpt., New York: Pageant, 1959). Howard N. Martin, "Texas Redskins in Confederate Gray," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 70 (April 1967). Anna Muckleroy, "The Indian Policy of the Republic of Texas," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 25–26 (April 1922–January 1923). William W. Newcomb, The Indians of Texas (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1961). Alvin W. Roseler, The Indian Policy of Sam Houston (M.A. thesis, St. Mary's University, 1949). Harriet Smither, "The Alabama Indians of Texas," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 36 (October 1932). John R. Swanton, Indian Tribes of the Lower Mississippi Valley and Adjacent Coast of the Gulf of Mexico (Washington: GPO, 1911). Mary Donaldson Wade, The Alabama Indians of East Texas (Livingston, Texas: Polk County Enterprise, 1931; rev. ed. 1936). Dorman H. Winfrey and James M. Day, eds., Texas Indian Papers (4 vols., Austin: Texas State Library, 1959–61; rpt., 5 vols., Austin: Pemberton Press, 1966). Dudley Goodall Wooten, ed., A Comprehensive History of Texas (2 vols., Dallas: Scarff, 1898; rpt., Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 1986).

  • Peoples
  • Native American
  • Tribes (Major)
Time Periods:
  • Antebellum Texas

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Howard N. Martin, “Alabama-Coushatta Indians,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 30, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

September 29, 2020

Currently Exists
Place Type
Town Fields
  • Has post office: No
  • Is Incorporated: No
Belongs to
  • Polk County
  • Latitude: 30.73689000°
  • Longitude: -94.72337800°
Population Counts
People Year
480 2000
572 2010