Colabe Cillistine (ca. 1780–ca. 1865)

By: Howard N. Martin

Type: Biography

Published: August 1, 1995

Updated: October 7, 2020

Colabe Cillistine (Celestine, Sylestine), subchief or second chief of the Alabama Indian tribe, spoke four languages and served his tribe effectively in communications with other tribes and with government officials and White settlers from 1806 to 1865. He was the grandfather of Bronson Cooper Sylestine, tribal chieftain from 1936 to 1969. Colabe, as he was generally called by the Alabamas, was born around 1780 near Lafourche, Louisiana, and moved with his family to Texas by 1800. As a young man he became skillful in the use of other languages in addition to the Alabama tribal language: French, English, and the Mobilian trade language. In 1806 Antone and Colabe were elected principal chief and second chief, respectively, of the Alabamas. Colabe served as an unofficial "prime minister" to Antone, attending numerous conferences relating to the Alabamas and translating for Antone when it became necessary. Colabe's name appears on several important documents involving the Alabamas. One of the most important was a petition for a permanent reservation that was presented to the Texas legislature on October 29, 1853. This petition was approved, and as a result the state of Texas purchased 1,110.7 acres of land for the Alabama Indian reservation. After the Alabamas moved onto their reservation during the winter of 1854–55, the tribal members expressed the need for an agent or reservation administrator to assist in tribal business matters, in contacts with government officials, and in relations with their White neighbors. On November 24, 1855, Colabe and other tribal leaders signed a request for the appointment of an agent, addressed to the Texas Senate and House of Representatives. Colabe continued to assist in tribal government activities but never rose above the rank of second chief. After an unusually long period of service to his people, he died around 1865. He was buried near the site of the present tribal cemetery, and the Alabama-Coushatta Tribal Council erected a monument in his honor at his gravesite. This monument was dedicated on June 23, 1990.

Petitions of the Alabama Indian Tribe to the Texas Legislature (MSS, October 29, 1853, November 24, 1855, Texas Indian Papers, Texas State Archives, Austin).

  • Peoples
  • Native American
  • Chiefs and Other Leaders
  • Tribes (Major)

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

Howard N. Martin, “Colabe Cillistine,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 15, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

August 1, 1995
October 7, 2020