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Alabama-Coushatta Inaugurate Chiefs

Alabama-Coushatta Inaugurate New Chiefs

Updated 1-10-2014

by Gregg Peak

INDIAN VILLAGE – In a ceremony steeped in tradition, history and spiritualism, two new chiefs for the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas were inaugurated on New Year's Day.
Colabe III Clem Fain Sylestine, who had served as the second chief since Jan. 1, 1995, was elevated to the role of principal chief, while Herbert Johnson, Sr., was installed as the new second chief.
Because those elected by the tribe to wear the chief's headdress serve for life, last week's ceremony was an historic event for the tribe.
Chief Colabe, 86, replaces Principal Chief Oscala Clayton Marion Sylestine, who died on Jan. 31, 2013.
Alabama-Coushatta tradition dictates that after a period of mourning, the new chiefs are elected by the tribe and installed on Jan. 1 in conjunction with the start of a new year.
"We're beginning a new chapter," Chief Colabe said after the ceremony. "We can't really know what's going to happen but my goal is to work to make sure that we move forward. I don't know what form the progress will take, but I want to help guide us forward so we can come to the same conclusion."
Johnson noted that, as second chief, he will be learning from Chief Colabe about his new role.
"I've got a ways to go but I'm going to do the best that I can to work for our people," he added.
Earlier during the ceremony, Johnson also thanked all those who came to take part in the event. While most of the remarks to the audience by Chief Colabe and Johnson were in their native language, Johnson did tell them in English how much their presence meant to him.
"North, east, south and west, you all came here today. I appreciate you for being here. Bless you all and have a happy new year," he said.
State Rep. James White also was on hand to present special proclamations on behalf of Texas Gov. Rick Perry, which granted formal recognition of each of their positions with the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe.
In presenting the proclamations, White also praised the tribe and its members for their dedication to preserving liberty.
"Whenever liberty has been threatened, the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas has been there to keep the light of freedom burning," White said.
He noted that as far back as the Texas Revolution, members of the tribe have been there to assist in times of need. From the Runaway Scrape during the revolution, to World War II, to Iraq, tribal members stood with their fellow Texans.
"On behalf of the State of Texas, I want to thank you for your service," White added.
During the ceremony, the new chiefs met privately with the elders from the tribe's 10 surviving clans (two clans are now considered extinct), before returning to publicly undergo the formal inaugural ceremony.
As part of the process, the chiefs were cleansed by Spiritual Leader Walter Celestine, using purified water and an eagle feather. The legs of the chiefs were then wrapped to symbolically protect them from the snakes – or the evils of the world -- as they journey through the swamps in search of the Great Spirit Abbo Mikko.
During the ceremony, the spiritual leader also briefly presented each chief with a staff adorned with eagle feathers representing their leadership role; with a tomahawk representing their authority and the protection they each must provide to the tribe; with a bow and arrow representing the need to provide food for the tribe; and with a peace pipe.
One of the final steps in the inauguration process is the crowning of the chiefs with their eagle-feathered headdresses, a process which is assisted by two military veterans from the tribe.
After the formal installation ceremony, a peace pipe ceremony was held as a gesture of friendship with visiting chiefs, including Loveland Poncho, who is chairman of the Coushatta Tribe in Lousiana.
Chief Colabe was born Nov. 4, 1927 on the Alabama-Coushatta Indian Reservation in Polk County as a member of the Granddaddy Long Legs Clan. He is the son of the late Bronson Cooper Sylestine, who served as principal chief from 1936-1969, and the late Mozanna Thompson Sylestine.
He also is a direct descendant of Sub-Chief Colabe, who served as second chief along with Principal Chief Antone around 1806.
His late wife, Leona Abby Sylestine, who a widely known artisan in traditional and contemporary beadwork.
Chief Colabe holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Austin College in Sherman and served as an educator and coach in the Southmayd, Holland, Shepherd, Woodville and Goodrich school districts. He retired in 1988.
He served the tribe on the tribal council and as tribal council chairman before being elected as second chief on Oct. 19, 1994.
Johnson, a member of the Beaver Clan, retired in 2012 as the tribal security director following 21 years of service. During his security work, he earned certifications from Kilgore College and the Angelina Criminal Justice Center. He also attended Jacksonville Baptist College on a basketball scholarship and in 1963 was honored as an All-American.
He has served two terms on the tribal touncil and has been a volunteer on the tribe's fire department and served for a number of years as Tribal Softball and Basketball League manager.
The new second chief also continues to serve on the Big Sandy Independent School District's board of trustees, a position he has held for 43 years.

Reward offered for tip on Sept. 19 Ivanhoe theft

by Emily Waldrep

Germania Insurance Company is now offering a monetary reward to anyone with information on a large-scale burglary that occurred in Ivanhoe at approximately 9 a.m. on Twenty-seventh Street on September 19.

The victim in the burglary had left her residence for the weekend to stay with family, leaving Sunday morning at approximately 8 a.m. Upon her return on Monday, she noticed that her back yard gate was unlocked and that entry had been made into her home through a back window by breaking the glass.

"Deputies were able to recover tire and partial footprints at the property," said Tyler County Sheriff Bryan Weatherford. "Photographs were taken of the impressions and the tire marks in the back yard. Deputies also talked with neighbors that said they didn't see anything unusual."
Some of the items stolen included a large amount of jewelry, several shotguns, pistols and rifles, power tools including a chain saw, DVD players, Riggs and Stratton Generator, laptops, and other various items.

According to the homeowners, the power tools all held identifying markers.

"Germania Insurance Company is offering a reward up to $500 to anyone who provides information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for the theft and vandalism at the insured property," said an official from Germania Insurance.
Anyone with any information on the crime can contact the Tyler County Sheriff's Office at 283-2172.

Help is available for holiday related stress

by Emily Waldrep

The holidays and weeks afterward can often be a stressful time for people and, after a Tyler County suicide, the Woodville City Police Department wants to remind citizens that resources are available for those who feel overwhelmed, depressed or stressed.

The Suicide Hotline of Beaumont serves Tyler County Citizens and is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to those who need it. Callers can reach the hotline at 1-800-793-2273.
"It seems like the holiday time of the year and the end of Christmas we seem to have an increase in suicides," said Captain Mike McCulley of the Woodville Police Department. "Not only that, but the mortality rate of the elderly seems to be affected during the holidays. It is a stressful time for people who don't have families. There is a sad correlation between holidays and depression."
The Burke Center, formerly known as the Deep East Texas Mental Health and Mental Retardation Services, also provides a variety of health care service to people with mental illness or those that are contemplating suicide and are located in Lufkin with a branch in Livingston.

According to the Burke Center, tens of thousands of depressed people attempt suicide each year and about one-fourth of them succeed. In fact, more people die of suicide than homicide.
There is also a national suicide prevention line at 1-800-273-TALK

Warren man's flu related death prompts concerns

by Emily Waldrep

After a Warren man passed away due to flu related complications this season, the Center for Disease control is warning that the flu is nothing to play with and that flu shots are more important this season than ever.
"We get all of our information about the flu from the Center of Disease Control," said Sondra Wilson, RN, MSN, CEN, Chief Nursing Officer. "There are also weekly flu reports available for the area."
You can view the reports at www.dshs.state.tx.us.
According to Horace McCorvey, epidemiologist for health service regions 4 and 5, severe cases of the flu are continuing to spread.
"The influenza activity for Health Service Region 4/5 for the week of December 21 continues to be widespread with laboratory confirmed flu being reported in all counties for which a flu report was received," said a report by McCorvey. "Ninety-Two percent of healthcare facilities that submitted reports indicated that flu activity increased compared to last week. Hospitals in 17 counties reported flu related admissions with clusters of severe cases being seen in Gregg, Angelina, Harrison, and Nacogdoches counties. There were multiple flu-related deaths reported, all in adult patients."
In addition, the state wide flu report states that one 7-year old died after testing positive for H1N1 and did not receive a flu vaccine in the 2013-2014 flu season. According to state health officials, the flu in Texas is above baseline and extremely widespread. In week 52 alone, 1,063 were diagnosed with the flu.
"We are seeing severe cases occurring in younger populations," McCorvey said.
The CDC recommends getting a flu shot if you haven't already, as the season can sometimes last into May.
Flu Shots are available at local hospitals as well as some local pharmacies, including Brookshire Brothers, Walgreens and CVS.

Hillister man arrested for Marijuana possession

by Emily Waldrep

On December 13 a Tyler County Sheriff deputy was patrolling south of Hillister on Highway 69 when he observed a truck without any tail lights and attempted to stop the vehicle. The driver, identified as Darren Taylor Wise, age 49, of Hillister, took a long time to pull over after the deputy had turned on his lights.

Once he pulled over and approached the vehicle, the deputy smelled a strong scent marijuana in the vehicle and asked the driver to exit the vehicle at that time. Wise stated that he did not smoke anything. The deputy searched Wise's vehicle and did not find anything, but continued to question Wise about the smell in his vehicle.
A second deputy arrived and Wise admitted after questioning that he had hidden marijuana on his person and that reason he had taken a long time to pull over was because he was hiding the marijuana.

Wise was arrested for Possession of Marijuana, 5 grams.

Three from Tyler County arrested, charged with Criminal Trespass

by Emily Waldrep

Two Tyler County Sheriff's deputies responded to a report of suspicious persons in an abandoned residence on December 18 near Warren. Witnesses stated they saw a white Chevrolet truck parked on the side of the road near the residence and saw flashlights inside the abandoned house.

Witnesses provided a license plate number from the suspicious vehicle, but the vehicle left before deputies arrived on the scene. After a short search, deputies found the vehicle fitting the description and made a traffic stop. According to law enforcement, the driver, identified as Justin Ford, age 21, of Spurger, and the passenger, Stephanie Shoemaker, age 20, of Woodville, both lied and stated they were riding around and had run out of gas. They also stated that they were first cousins, but Shoemaker was sitting next to Ford in the middle seat, which caused deputies to be suspicious.
There was also a third person involved, Ronnie Jenkins, age 19, of Woodville, located on County Road 3455.

All parties were questioned separately but their stories did not add up. Jenkins stated that he was related to someone who owned the residence that they had broken into and entered.

Deputies contacted the relative in question, who stated she wanted to press charges because she had not given anyone permission to enter the house.
Jenkins, Ford and Shoemaker were all arrested and charged with Criminal Trespass, and their vehicle was towed.