Members of the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe presented their culture, including a dance performance, at the Heritage Museum of Montgomery County on Nov. 16.
Joy Montgomery, who became Executive Director of the Heritage Museum of Montgomery County a few months ago, told Bluebonnet News one of the first things she wanted to do was bring in the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe and talk about the Native American element of Montgomery County.
“Original Montgomery County it (Alabama-Coushatta) was a lot larger, but even in the Montgomery County of today, there’s several Coushatta traces. The Coushatta have been through here for ages and ages, so they’re part of the heartbeat, so to speak, of Montgomery County, and that hasn’t been recognized as much as I think it should be, and celebrated,” Montgomery said. Also, the fact that I have discovered and been talking to some of them about the fact they helped with the Runaway Scrape, which was very important to the founding of the Republic. They helped the poor settlers as they were going across; the Chief killed his own cattle in order to help the settlers who were going over with the rising of the Trinity waters.”
Montgomery said they also helped with Sam Houston.
“In addition to that, whenever I lived in Tennessee and I worked with the Sequoyah Birthplace Museum, I also worked with Hiwassee Island, where Sam Houston was with the Cherokees. It turns out that same Hiwassee Island was home to the Coushatta of Texas, so there’s connections through Sam Houston and there’s also connections through the Coushatta from Tennessee, where I was, to here,” Montgomery said.
Yolanda Poncho is a member of the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe and Cultural Marketing and PR Coordinator for Naskilla Gaming, located in Livingston.
Poncho provided a history of the Tribe to the audience at the Heritage Museum of Montgomery County on Nov. 16, before the Tribe performed dances.
“We migrated from present day Alabama, and they wanted to honor our people, our ancestors, because we are the original inhabitants of the land. We migrated, along with the Coushattas, down to the Mobile area following the French, because we were close to the French,” Poncho said. After that, we migrated westward into what is now Texas before Texas was even a state. We did help with the Runaway Scrape during the Texas Revolutionary War.” Sam Houston wanted us to remain neutral and we did, and when Texas won the war, he gave us some land; some was never given to us but we were able to purchase land later on when one of our Chiefs, Sunkee, went to Washington D.C. and asked for aide from President Hoover.”
Poncho said President Hoover gave the Tribe some money to buy more land and more equipment for farming and to build a hospital.
“We sustain our land and we’re surviving,” Poncho said.
The Alabama Coushatta Tribe is less than an hour away from Montgomery County, in Livingston.
“We used to have a village close to San Jacinto County, right by Montgomery County, and our Coushattas lived in that area. They would help the settlers when they were trying to get away from the Mexican Army,” Poncho said. They would come to our area and we would take care of them, feed them, protect them, take them as far as we could and help them out.”
Naskila Gaming is the casino that the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe operates in Livingston.
“Naskila means dogwood in our language, and it’s just something that we always use in the tribe. It helped our people medicinally with the flower, and today we honor,” Poncho said. Today Naskila Gaming, the economic impact is great (with it) in Polk and Tyler Counties and the entire Texas region. We have over 400 that’s working for the Tribe, along with the tribal jobs that we already have. We are now the second largest employer in Polk County.”
Poncho said they’re open 24 hours, they don’t serve alcohol, and they have electronic bingo machines.
Poncho said the Tribe is still being challenged by the state.
“We have House Resolution 759, to be equal and fair, just like the Kickapoo Tribe. They’ve been operating for 22 years, the same thing that we’re doing, but we’re being challenged by the state,” Poncho said. We just want to be equal and fair, and this is what this act is all about. We want to keep our jobs and want to keep good neighbors to you, to Montgomery County.”