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Native American Girl Scout Troop Shares their Culture
November marks the month we stop to reflect upon the history and contributions of the indigenous people of this great land we call America. In celebration of Native American History month, a Girl Scout troop comprised of Native Americans shares its tribe’s history and culture.
The Alabama-Coushatta Tribe formed in 1959 when two tribes joined together after an era of friendship and support. “Our tribes were two separate tribes, who were forced out of the current state of Alabama,” said Girl Scout troop leader Tina Battise. “The Alabamas came to Tyler Country in 1805 and the Coushattas arrived in East Texas sometime after 1795. When white settlers overtook land given to them by the Texas Congress, Sam Houston, as a gesture of gratitude for supporting Texas Independence, recommended that the state purchase land for each tribe,” she continued. “Later, when the Coushatta’s land was not deeded, the Alabamas shared their land.”
Shortly after the new millennium, the girls in the tribe were introduced to Girl Scouts of San Jacinto Council (GSSJC). “Girl Scouts has been a positive influence on our girls. We see the increasing need to empower the girls with positive role models,” said Battise. “We are still growing in Girl Scouts, but we now know more of the things out there for our girls to see and do outside the reservation.”
The reservation is a small community of approximately 1,100 enrolled members, but they have built a community of which they can be proud. The reservation is its own nation with a local government and support system including finance, housing, maintenance and administration. “We have built a multi purpose gym for our tribal members, with a fitness room and spa. We have our own library, youth building and education department - and a wonderful troop of Girl Scout girls, too,” Battise said.
According to Battise, The Alabama-Coushattas are a proud people, with long ties to Christianity. Many still speak their native language and still do the crafts that have been taught for many generations.
“We have powwows, Tribal Celebration week, language classes, basket making classes and hoop dance clinics, along with modern activities,” said Battise. Most recently, the Girl Scouts celebrated Brownie Magic with the tribal people. During this year’s daylong event, the girls learned new songs, games, crafts, and program ideas to take back to their troop meetings.
A highlight for girls in attendance was getting to meet Chief Oscola Clayton M. Sylestine, who is one of the two chiefs of the tribe. The tribe’s governing body is the Tribal Council, which has two chiefs appointed to lead the tribe for a lifetime. Chief Oscola Clayton M. Sylestine came to speak to the girls during Brownie Magic’s opening ceremony, and gave them a little history about the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe. He also shared some methods on how to collect eagle feathers. A storyteller shared traditional legends, and taught the girls about doing the right thing, no matter how appealing the alternative. The girls spent the rest of the day rotating between a craft session, songs and games, and a puppet show put on by the GSSJC Puppetry Troupe. They also took a hike around Lake Tombigbee.
Tina Battise is a former tribal Princess - the tribe has four such Tribal Princesses who preside over powwows and serve as ambassadors to the community. One Tribal Princess is a Junior Tribal Princess who is between the age of six and 13. The two other princesses represent the organization that elected them, as well as serving as tribe ambassadors. “My daughter also just served as Indian Club Princess and is a Junior Girl Scout,” said Battise.
Girl Scouts of the USA is the world's preeminent organization for girls, with a membership of more than 3.5 million girls and adults. Today, as when founded in 1912, GSUSA helps cultivate values, social conscience, and self-esteem in young girls, while also teaching them critical life skills that will enable them to succeed as adults. Girl Scouting builds girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place.
Chartered by GSUSA to provide Girl Scouting locally, Girl Scouts of San Jacinto Council is one of the largest Girl Scout councils in the country serving over 63,000 girl members and 18,000 adults in 25 southeast Texas counties. For more information on Girl Scouts, membership or volunteer opportunities, call 713-292-0300 or visit www.gssjc.org.
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Embracing and promoting pluralism is an integral part of every activity and plan of Girl Scouts of San Jacinto Council, not disconnected or separate projects. Only individuals willing to accept and be educated about the basic tenet that Girl Scouting is for all girls may serve in volunteer leadership or staff positions.
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