First woman to serve as a chief in the history of the tribe
By Emily Banks Wooten
The first woman to serve as a chief in the history of the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas died Friday. Millie Thompson Williams, Mikko Istimatokla, Chief Poliika Istaaya was elected Second Chief by tribal members in 2022 and was inaugurated into her new role on Jan. 1, 2023.
Williams was a lifelong resident of the Alabama-Coushatta tribal community and was a member of the Bear Clan. She was married to the late Kenneth “Woody” Williams for 47 years. She graduated from Angelina College with her associates degree in child/family development and was an educator and health/mental health coordinator for the tribe’s Head Start Program for over 35 years. She was also a Sunday School teacher at the Indian Village Assembly of God Church, leading the classes in the Alabama language.
During a press conference a few days following her inauguration, Williams was very much aware of the history she was making and was cheerful and eager to take on her new role.
“This is a historical moment for me as a woman. I never thought this is where I would be. As I was growing up, it was predominantly men, but today I’m sitting here in front of you. This is exciting. I was nervous, very nervous, but excited, knowing that God had placed me here,” Williams said.
“This is a place of position that’s so high. This is for the whole people, the whole Alabama-Coushatta tribe. Things are going to be brought before me and you have to make the right decision. I’m proud to be the second chief of our tribe, very proud,” Williams said.
When asked what her approach regarding young women would be, Williams said she would like to encourage them.
“You can be whatever you want to be in life. You can go and reach for the gold, reach out for the stars. I would just encourage them and talk to them individually, one on one. The young people that are going to college, I would like to talk to them and tell them there’s life out there for you, don’t give up. Just keep on going and make the best of your life,” Williams said.
“I would love to share our culture with a lot of people. You know I used to be a teacher for 27 years and what I taught I would love to share. We lived in log cabins and I would take sticks and show the children how the log cabins were made and the pottery and the pine needle baskets. I just love to share what our culture is all about,” Williams said.
The Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas has the oldest reservation in Texas, located on approximately 10,200 acres near Livingston. The tribe is a fully functioning sovereign government with a full array of health and human services, including law enforcement and emergency services. There are more than 1,400 tribal members, about half of whom live on the reservation. The tribe is governed by an elected tribal council and advised by the principal chief and second chief.
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