New law calls for Texas to recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Week

During every state legislative session, members of the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas visit the State Capitol to sing and dance on the Capitol grounds and to meet with legislators about issues that are impacting tribal members. (Photo courtesy of Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas)

Newly approved legislation in Texas will recognize the second week in October as Indigenous Peoples’ Week and draw attention to the positive contributions of the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas and other tribal communities in the state.

Rep. Todd Hunter of Corpus Christi authored HCR 62 and Sen. Royce West of Dallas sponsored it in the Senate. Gov. Greg Abbott signed HCR 62 into law on June 18.

“The Lone Star State is home to Native Americans from diverse tribal nations, and the effort to retain ancestral memories, languages, and cultures is ongoing and vital,” the resolution states. “The observation of Indigenous Peoples’ Week raises awareness of this rich heritage and the wide-ranging contributions Native Americans have made and continue to make to our state and nation.”

Chief Herbert Johnson, head of the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas, along with the other tribe representatives, are pictured with State Senator Robert Nichols (State Senate District 3) and Rep. James White (Texas House District 19) at the 2017 Alabama-Coushatta Day at the State Capitol. (Photo courtesy of Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas)

“The creation of Indigenous Peoples’ Week in Texas is very meaningful to the citizens of our Tribe and we are grateful for Representative Hunter, Senator West and the other legislators who made it happen,” said Nita Battise, Tribal Council Chairwoman of the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas. “We look forward to celebrating this week and talking to our fellow Texans about our proud and deep ties to the history of this state.”

Rep. Hunter added, “It is important for Texans to understand the countless contributions that the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe and other indigenous communities have made to this state’s past and our present.”

The second week of October is also when the Tribe recognizes Alabama-Coushatta Celebration Week.

“This new designation from the State of Texas will make Alabama-Coushatta Celebration Week even more meaningful,” Chairwoman Battise said. “October is always a special time of year for our Tribe and we will soon plan some great events for this year’s celebration.” 

Yolanda Poncho, who serves on the Tribal Council of the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas, testified in favor of HCR 62 before the Texas House Committee on Culture, Recreation & Tourism.

“It is because our lives are so ingrained with our fellow Texans that we are profoundly grateful for the recognition this resolution provides,” Council Member Poncho told the committee. “By approving this resolution, you are saying that you honor the contributions of our tribes and all tribes in this state.For that, we are honored, and we thank you.”

The Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas is the oldest tribe in the state and famously assisted Gen. Sam Houston’s Army during the Texas War of Independence. With a reservation that spans more than 10,000 acres, the Tribe plays a critical role in the cultural and economic life of Deep East Texas. Naskila Gaming, the electronic bingo facility that the Tribe operates, is the second-largest employer in Polk County. 

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