Log in

Top Stories        News         Sports

Polk County News

The nation’s best

Write a comment

062622 the nations bestMaci Hill’s National History Day documentary was chosen as the best amongst 600,000 high school student entries.

Livingston student takes first place at national competition

By Brian Besch
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Winning awards is nothing new to Maci Hill. The Livingston ISD student entering her senior year has excelled in many areas, from student council president to golf and tennis. She is an All-American cheerleader, will start college as a sophomore, and has yet to have a report card with anything but an A.

Still, her latest achievement is a big deal. Last week, Maci’s documentary for National History Day was chosen amongst 600,000 entries as first place in the senior division (high school) for individual documentary.

Her awards include the Nation National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Scholar, Next Generation Angel’s Award, Anne Harrington Award and Scholarship for the National History Academy.

The last of those has Maci excited for next summer, when she will go to the National History Academy in Washington, D.C. to study history for a week. In October, she will visit the Library of Congress, where filmmaker Ken Burns holds his prize for film award ceremony. The students receive an official copyright for their films at the event.

It is her sixth entry into the contest. She has made the national competition in five of those. Maci was part of the gifted and talented program in junior high and participation in the competition began as an extra project in her history class.

“We were required to do it in sixth through eighth grade,” she said. “I really fell in love with it after I made it to nationals the first time in the seventh grade. Whenever I came into high school in my freshman year, I didn’t plan on doing it again, but I kind of felt like it was something missing and I was so used to doing it.”

Her brother was also into the projects, finishing third place in his time at Livingston ISD. Maci called him to rub it in a little the first time she finished higher in seventh grade.

“He did it all through junior high, but didn’t continue in high school. I’m pretty sure, before I came, he had gone the furthest as far as getting third place at state. I got second place at state and in the same year, some (Livingston) boys got first place at state. We were just ecstatic that we beat our siblings, because a lot of us had siblings that had gone before us.”

The process of creating the documentary is time-consuming, with plenty of research and effort. Along the way, she has received valuable counsel from advisors Suzonna McFarlain and Kristina Miller. Often, Maci gives up what little free time she has.

“I’ve spent my Christmas break and my Thanksgiving breaks really pouring myself into that project every year. To take a break, I normally say that after Christmas is what I’m going to hit it hard for that week. I go upstairs to our loft area and I don’t start until about 8 p.m. on it every night. I work until about 4 a.m. and go to sleep for a while, and then do it again the next day for like a week straight. That is how I finish it every year.”

The top two projects in each category advance in regionals and then state to get to nationals. Just winning at the state level in Austin is an accomplishment, with similar difficulty as the national contest.

This year, Maci placed first at regionals, which was held at Lonestar College - Montgomery, state was held in Austin, where she again took top honors. The national event was held virtually in Maryland.

“They give you a theme each year, and they release it in the summer as the year is wrapping up so you can kind of get started for the next year. (This year,) It was debate and diplomacy in history. I just spent free time looking into history and I really wanted to do something on the Cold War, because I had never done something on that before. I had always kind of done everything but that. When I came across the topic of Nikita Khrushchev visiting Roswell Garst’s farm, it really fit the theme perfectly and it fit every checkbox that I wanted for a documentary.

The event being captured in history whenever it took place is very important for the documentary. This event was very televised, and it was everywhere in the United States and there were so many reporters, so it was perfect.”

In 1959, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev visited Coon Rapids in Western Iowa to the farm of Roswell Garst, an innovative seed corn salesman. Garst had been to the Soviet Union several years before and met Khrushchev, inviting him to visit. Khrushchev traveled to the United States in search of agricultural innovations and ideas he could take back to better feed the Soviet people. It was the height of the Cold War, a time when the people of both countries were fearful of one another. However, the meeting in September of 1959 aided those relations.

“I think that I had just never found a topic that fit so perfectly,” Maci said of her reason for choosing the topic. “I just love the title that I came up with. “Communist in the Cornfields” is kind of funny and a catch your attention type of thing. As I dug into it, I realized that there were some folks still alive from when it happened. That is when I first met Ms. Liz Garst. She is Roswell Garst’s granddaughter. We have kind of kept in touch since. She was great with encouraging me to pursue this. They are actually considering putting my documentary in the museum in Iowa at the farm.”

Film may not be in her future, but the standout student feels it could remain a hobby. For now, plans are to major in government and minor in history. Maci envisions herself attending law school one day. She begins touring college campuses next week.

Maci is already preparing for next year’s project, which has a theme of “Frontiers in History.” She has not quite settled on a subject, but says that more research may be involved this summer in an attempt to top the award winner. 

“I have, through National History Day, found my love for history. I know for sure that history and my love for it will be in my future. I don’t really know where we are going to go from there, but that is kind of what my thought is right now. I am pretty excited for the future.”

  • Hits: 1448

Tribes win at U.S. Supreme Court

Write a comment

061922 naskila wins

Naskila can continue to be source of jobs, economic activity

By Emily Banks Wooten
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling Wednesday that will allow the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas to continue operating Naskila Gaming, its electronic bingo facility, despite years of efforts by the State of Texas to shut the facility down.

The Court ruled 5-4 that the state does not have the authority to prohibit electronic bingo on tribal lands because electronic bingo is not a game that is prohibited by state law. The decision came in the case of Ysleta del Sur Pueblo v. Texas. Both Ysleta del Sur Pueblo and the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas operate electronic bingo facilities on their reservations.

“The Court’s decision is an affirmation of tribal sovereignty and a victory for the Texas economy,” Ricky Sylestine, chairman of the tribal council of the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas, said. “The highest Court in the land has made clear that our tribe has the right to legally operate electronic bingo on our reservation, just as we have the past six years. Our guests and employees now have certainty that the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas will be able to offer electronic bingo on our reservation for many years to come.”

In 2015, the National Indian Gaming Commission approved gaming ordinances to allow the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas and Ysleta del Sur Pueblo to operate electronic bingo on their reservations. The Texas attorney general soon sued to stop the tribes from operating their facilities, asserting a 1994 decision by the U.S. Fifth Circuit saying legislation that restored federal recognition for the two tribes conflicted with the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. The facilities were allowed to stay open as the case moved through the legal system, which is why Naskila Gaming has operated since May 2016.

Wednesday’s decision vacates the 1994 decision by the U.S. Fifth Circuit, effectively declaring that the Fifth Circuit decided the case incorrectly. The decision clears the way for Naskila Gaming to continue operating.

“We find no evidence Congress endowed state law with anything like the power Texas claims,” Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote in the majority opinion.
Naskila’s continued operation is a major win for the East Texas economy. Some 700 jobs are tied to Naskila Gaming, which is the second-largest employer in Polk County, and the Texas Forest Country Partnership has estimated the facility produces an annual economic benefit of $170 million. More than 80 civic and business groups have stated formal support for Naskila Gaming in recent years.

The Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas will continue pushing for federal legislation to make clear that the two tribes have the right to offer electronic bingo on their reservations. The U.S. House of Representatives has already passed that bill. A U.S. Senate version of the bill — S. 4196 — has been introduced by Sens. Martin Heinrich of New Mexico and Jon Tester of Montana.

“While the state suffered a severe setback in its effort to close Naskila Gaming, further action by Congress would eliminate any ambiguity,” Sylestine said. “We urge the U.S. Senate to provide further economic certainty to East Texas by approving the legislation introduced by Senators Heinrich and Tester.

  • Hits: 1213

Trustee escapes

Write a comment

061222 trustee escapesJames Tad Wheeler Jr.A trustee has escaped from the Angelina County Sheriff’s Office after walking away from the jail while on work detail.

The incident occurred Thursday at approximately 9:55 p.m. Inmate James Tad Wheeler Jr., 36, is described as a white male, approximately 6-foot tall and 180 pounds. Wheeler has sandy blond or light brown hair.

He was last seen wearing a bright green t-shirt and black and white striped uniform pants. Wheeler is in jail for multiple felony thefts, multiple burglaries, engaging in organized criminal activity, and unauthorized use of a motor vehicle.

Those with information on Wheeler’s whereabouts are urged to contact the sheriff’s office at 936-634-3331.

  • Hits: 1917

Texas tribes win Supreme Court case

1 Comment

SylestineRicky Sylestine, chairman of the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas

By Emily Banks Wooten
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The U.S. Supreme Court has issued its ruling in a case brought by the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo, a tribe in El Paso, related to electronic bingo on federally recognized tribal lands in Texas. Because the Pueblo and the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas had their federal recognition restored in the same act of congress, the Court’s decision impacts the Pueblo and the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe equally.  

In a 5-4 decision Wednesday, the Supreme Court ruled that federal law does not prohibit gaming on tribal lands if that type of gaming is not prohibited by state law. Therefore, because the two tribes offer electronic bingo, and bingo is not prohibited under Texas law, the Court vacated an earlier decision from the Fifth U.S. Circuit saying that the tribes could not offer electronic bingo. Wednesday’s decision sends the case back to the Fifth Circuit.

“The Court’s decision is an affirmation of tribal sovereignty and a victory for the Texas economy. The highest court in the land has made clear that our tribe has the right to legally operate electronic bingo on our reservation, just as we have the past six years,” Ricky Sylestine, chairman of the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas’ Tribal Council, said.

The issue before the court was whether the two tribes can offer electronic bingo under a federal law known as the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. The Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas has offered electronic bingo at Naskila Gaming for the last six years. Some 700 jobs are tied to Naskila Gaming, making this case extremely consequential for the East Texas economy.

The Supreme Court heard oral arguments in February from Ysleta del Sur Pueblo and from the State of Texas, which has argued that Ysleta del Sur Pueblo and the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas do not have the authority to offer electronic bingo on their reservations. 

  • Hits: 2248

LPD looking for suspect

Write a comment

061222 looking for suspect

An investigation is underway at the Livingston Police Department from a theft that occurred at a local business. The subject in the photograph is a person of interest in that investigation. Those with information on the identity or location of this individual are asked to contact the Livingston Police Department at 936-327-3117 and reference case number 220503347.

  • Hits: 757