|Polk County Enterprise - Local News
Stories Added - May 2010
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State, Tribal members work together
Polk County Enterprise
BY LYNN BROWN
Leaders of the Alabama- Coushatta Tribe of Texas met with representatives from state and local agencies last week to sign an historic agreement on how cases of child neglect and abuse will be handled on the reservation. Representatives of Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, Child Protective Services Division, Region 4 and 5 and local Child Protective Service staff met at the Tribal Administrative and Culture Center for the official signing. The Memorandum of Understanding culminates years of negotiations between the Alabama- Coushatta Tribe of Texas and State and local child welfare departments to provide for the welfare of Tribal children. The document provides for a joint investigation of child neglect and abuse caswes. “The State and Alabama- Coushatta Tribe of Texas are finding common ground for a healthier and safer community,” said Cheryl Fairbanks, attorney for the Tribe, who also attended the ceremony from New Mexico. Along with state representatives, Tribal Council Chairman Carlos Bullock addressed the ceremonial gathering. “We come to the table with mutual respect,” Bullock said. “The care of our children is of the utmost importance. We take action today to continue our interests to make for a healthy and vital community.” Chief Oscola Clayton Sylestine and Second Chief Colabe III Clem Sylestine attended the ceremony and addressed representatives. The Tribal Peacemakers, the judicial system on the reservation that began hearing child welfare cases in July, 2009, also attended the signing ceremony. The Alabama-Coushatta judicial system follows traditional values aligning with tribal elders’ core values and the Tribal Constitution. The Tribal Council adopted a Judicial Code that aligns with the Indian Child Welfare Act along with an adopted Peacemaker Code. The Peacemakers report to the Tribal Council on court cases. The resolutions of the Peacemaker judicial system are binding and legal to the parties involved just as in legal matters outside the reservation.