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Legislature convenes Tuesday

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By Emily Banks Wooten
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The 88th session of the Texas Legislature convenes Tuesday for the biennial 140-day regular legislative session in which state lawmakers will address issues and attempt to pass bills on behalf of their constituents.

Property taxes, border issues, public education funding, gun control, the power grid, abortion, LGBTQ issues and mental health access in rural areas are expected to be the top issues addressed.

According to State Comptroller Glenn Hegar, state lawmakers will have a $27 billion budget surplus to spend, the result of record-high tax revenues over the last year. In total, lawmakers will have $149.07 billion in general funds, Hegar said, whereas they had $112.5 billion going into the last regular legislative session in 2021. However, there are constitutional limits on how much of the surplus lawmakers will be able to spend.

Polk County is represented by Sen. Robert Nichols (R) in the Texas Senate and by Rep. Trenty Ashby (R) in the Texas House of Representatives.

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New chiefs inaugurated, introduced

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By Emily Banks Wooten
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The Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas introduced its newly inaugurated chiefs Tuesday, beginning a new chapter in the tribe’s proud history.

Mikko Choba (Principal Chief) Kanicu Donnis Battise and Mikko Istimatokla (Second Chief) Poliika Istaaya Millie Thompson Williams were elected by tribal members in 2022 and were inaugurated into their new roles by the tribe during a private ceremony on Sunday.

“Our inauguration on Sunday was filled with people, well-wishers, family. It was almost like a family reunion for many of our tribal citizens and many who came to support both our Mikkos (chiefs). It was a good feeling,” Tribal Council Vice Chair Nita Battise said.

Mikko Choba Kanicu is a member of the Bear Clan and speaks the Alabama language. He was married to his beloved wife, Carol, for 51 years. Kanicu graduated from Livingston High School and then served in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War era. He previously served the tribe as a member of the tribal council for two terms. Mikko Kanicu was previously elected as Mikko Istimatokla in 2019. The previous Mikko Choba Skaalaba Herbert G. Johnson, Sr. passed away in August 2021.

Mikko Istimatokla Poliika Istaaya is the first woman to serve as a chief in the history of the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas. She is a lifelong resident of the Alabama-Coushatta tribal community and is also a member of the Bear Clan. She was married to the late Kenneth “Woody” Williams for 47 years. Poliika Istaaya graduated from Angelina College with her associates degree in child/family development and has been an educator and health/mental health coordinator for the tribe’s Head Start Program for over 35 years. She is also a Sunday School teacher at the Indian Village Assembly of God Church, leading the classes in the Alabama language.

“This is a historical moment for me as a woman. I never though 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.

Principal Chief Battise expressed his desire to honor his grandfather, the late McConnico Battise.

“He was famous for building log cabin homes for the tribe, and he could do it without nails and stuff like that which I think is pretty good. He was also an interpreter for Charlie Thompson (principal chief from 1928-1935). They went to Washington D.C. to appeal for land and housing, and they were successful so I am honoring my grandfather. That is the least I can do. He did great things for the tribe,” Battise said.

“I am also a veteran of the United States Army, a veteran of the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe and I am a member of the Alabama-Coushatta Veterans Association, and I am proud to be a veteran. Because of what we did, you are now safe, I think,” Battise said.

“I am proud to have a female chief because it is our history. It has been a long time coming. I’m glad to have her as a partner, as second chief,” Battise said.

While both Battise and Williams are big proponents of education, they were asked what other priorities they have.

“The Alabama-Coushatta Tribe would like to extend invitation to all people to come and visit us because we are here. We are one of the first people that were here. We have been here over 230 years and we will be here as long as I’m going, I guess for the next 230 years. I am proud to have this land and also proud to have Millie to be second chief as a woman. We want to move on. We want to tell the State of Texas that we are here, and we will be fighting for our rights and everything like that. We are here. We are proud people,” Battise 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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AC Tribe to introduce new chiefs

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From Enterprise Staff

The Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas will introduce its new principal chief and second chief at 10 a.m. Tuesday in the Cultural Center on the tribe’s reservation.

The incoming Chiefs – Mikko Choba (Principal Chief) Kanicu Donnis Battise and Mikko Istimatokla (Second Chief) Millie Thompson Williams – will give remarks and be introduced by Tribal Council Vice Chair Nita Battise at the event Tuesday. The two will be formally inaugurated during a private event on Sunday.

The incoming Mikko Choba currently serves as the Mikko Istimatokla. The previous Mikko Choba Skaalaba Herbert G. Johnson Sr. died in August 2021.

The two chiefs were elected by tribal citizens earlier this year. Williams is the first woman in the history of the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas to serve as a chief.

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Prepare for freezing weather - Protect those pipes

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ColdWeather Dec 20 2022 3

By Emily Banks Wooten
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An Arctic cold front will bring strong winds and bitterly cold air into Southeast Texas, most likely Thursday afternoon, according to Warning Coordination Meteorologist Dan Reilly of the Houston/Galveston office of the National Weather Service.

“The combination of winds and low temperatures will combine to create dangerously low wind chill indices, posing a danger of hypothermia and burst water pipes. Strong winds could lead to scattered power outages.

A long duration freeze is expected, meaning it will remain below freezing in most zones from Thursday night into Saturday,” Reilly said.

“What we know is that extended durations below freezing are expected for many locations and we recommend finalizing preparations to protect people, pets, plants and pipes before Thursday when the coldest air begins arriving,” Reilly said.

“It is too early to confidently forecast exact temperatures at any individual location but teens and 20s appear likely. It is also too early to confidently forecast consecutive hours any individual location will remain below freezing. However, the potential is there for some areas to remain below 32 degrees into Sunday morning,” Reilly said.

Polk County Emergency Management Coordinator Courtney Comstock agreed.

“We are expecting freezing temperatures this week. Now is the time to prepare and protect your home. Always be prepared for power outages. Have flashlights and batteries on hand. Use generators safely,” Comstock said.

“Make sure you have plenty of non-perishable food and drinking water, one gallon per person per day for at least three to seven days. Also keep enough food and water for your pets. Keep water in your home for sanitary purposes such as toilet flushing. Consider filling a bathtub with water,” she said.

Comstock offered the following tips for protecting pipes:

Locate your water shut off. Make sure everyone in your residence knows where the water main shutoff valve is located and keep it clear of debris and obstacles at all times.

Keep out cold air. Tightly close doors and windows to the outside. Make repairs to broken or drafty windows, doors and walls. Seal all leaks in crawl spaces and basements. Winterize unheated spaces and close garage doors for the duration of the freeze.

Find exposed pipes and water heaters. Insulate pipes in unheated and drafty areas, such as an attic or garage. Also check manufacturer recommendations for your tanked and tankless water heaters. Hardware and plumbing supply stores carry insulation to help keep pipes from freezing.

Turn off outside faucets. Remove all connected hoses and wrap faucets with towels or a Styrofoam insulator. Turn off and drain automatic sprinkler systems.

If you plan to be away during a time when freezing temperatures are possible, turn off your water at the meter and set your thermostat to 65 degrees or higher.

During freezing weather protect indoor faucets by opening cabinets beneath kitchen and bathroom sinks to allow warmer air to circulate around pipes. Be sure to remove any toxic substances located in these cabinets if there are children or pets living in the residence.

Drip only if needed. After the measures above are taken, drip one cold water faucet slowly if you feel your pipes may still freeze. The faucet you choose should be the one that is the greatest distance from your main shutoff valve. It does not need to be a running trickle. If you do drip your faucet, capture the water for future use.

If you experience a power outage for more than 24 hours, stop dripping your faucets and turn off your water at the meter.

After a period of freezing weather, if you turn on a faucet and discover only a trickle of water coming out, or no water at all, it is possible you have a frozen pipe or water meter.

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If you now enjoy the school science you slept through, become a master naturalist

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Piney Wood Lakes Master Naturalists gather for an advanced training presentation on milkweed to entice monarch butterflies. Courtesy photo

From Enterprise Staff

The Piney Woods Lakes Chapter of Texas Master Naturalists will begin a new training class on February 1, 2023. Interested nature enthusiasts from Polk, San Jacinto, Trinity and Tyler counties will take 10 weeks of virtual and classroom training delivered by master naturalists and specialists from universities, Texas Parks and Wildlife, Texas A&M University AgriLife and nature centers. Trainees will get to:

Hang out with other nature-loving people;

Play in the water and mud again without getting into trouble;

Learn to identify birds by their sound;

Lead nature hikes at parks and nature preserves; and

Participate in many more fun and educational outdoor opportunities.

Master Naturalist certification requires 40 hours of training and 40 hours of chapter and community service within one year of beginning training. Topics covered in the training include interpretation and management of natural resources; land and water conservation and management; diverse eco-regions in Texas; pollinators, bird and wildlife identification; and improving natural habitats for all living things.

Additionally, each trainee must complete the annual requirement for eight hours of advanced training in an area of personal interest. Various presentations offered at chapter meetings typically fulfill most of this requirement.

The class fee of $140 covers the bound state curriculum, first year chapter annual dues of $25, temporary and permanent name badges, fees for speakers and facilities and the required Texas Parks and Wildlife Department background check.

Classes, most 5 hours, will be held Wednesdays for 10 weeks beginning February 1 and ending on April 12 with a spring break March 13-17. Most classes will be held at Polk County Chamber of Commerce, Lake Livingston State Park or in the field. Most classes will be recorded in case you miss one.

For more information or to fill out an application, contact Tina Crichfield via email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or check out the website and Facebook page. Download the membership application online at www.txmn.org/pineywoodlakes

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