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Alabama-Coushatta Tribe Lifetime Chief Walks On

Chief Oscola Clayton Sylestine, lifetime chief of the Alabama-Coushatta Indian Tribe of Texas, succumbed to illness and walked on January 31.

He was elected to the position of chief of the Alabama-Coushatta Indian Tribe of Texas in 1992 and installed as lifetime chief January 1, 1993. He served the tribe most of his adult life—as chairman prior to becoming chief.

Chief Oscola Clayton Sylestine succumbed to illness and walked on Thursday, January 31. He was 80 years old. According to a press release from the tribe he was a third generation descendant of Alabama sub-chief Colabe.

“This truly is a sad occasion and day, not only for our tribe but for all tribal nations, the citizens of both the state of Texas and this great nation,” said Kyle Williams, Alabama-Coushatta tribal council chairman, in a press release. “Chief Oscola actively represented the tribe at numerous cultural and social events while promoting a better understanding of the tribe’s rich history and heritage.”

Chief Oscola’s career was with Champion International Paper, a company he spent 17 years with before retiring in 1998.

He loved the culture of his tribe. So much so that he gathered river cane from the river bottoms, split the cane and would weave it into intricate patterns using basket weaving methods passed down for generations. He was so skilled at this that passed on his knowledge teaching basket weaving classes.

He played basketball and fast pitch softball. In the independent fast pitch softball leagues in east Texas he was known as “Smiley.”

“The mention of his name as pitcher brought uneasiness to opponents who had a challenge with his rising fastball,” says a press release from the tribe. “He was a premier fast pitch softball pitcher for his generation.”

Chief Oscola is survived by his wife, Ethelyn, two sons, two daughters and numerous grandchildren.