Christina D. Carlson, 36, is charged with two counts each of criminal endangerment and failure to support or care for a dependent person.
She appeared briefly in Tulalip Tribal Court, where she pleaded not guilty. A trial is set for early December.
Tribal court is not open to the public, but tribal officials allowed a small number of reporters to observe the hearing Thursday.
Family members filled the two benches in the small courtroom, accompanied by tribal leaders. Several prayed together before the hearing. Many held each other and wept.
Carlson was arrested Monday night after her daughter, who was 19 months old, was found not breathing in a car on the Tulalip Reservation.
The girl and her sister, who's 2 1/2, were rushed to the hospital in need of immediate medical care, according to tribal officials.
The younger girl, identified by state social workers as Chantel Craig, died. Her cause of death remains under investigation.
Charging papers filed in tribal court allege that Carlson refused or neglected to furnish food, shelter or other proper care for the girls over a period lasting at least 20 days.
The older sister was listed Thursday in stable condition at Seattle Children's Hospital, Tulalip Police Chief Rance Sutten said.
The older girl is expected to be hospitalized for several more days, he said.
As the hearing began, Judge Gary Bass offered his condolences to Chantel's family for their loss.
Chantel was part of the larger tribal family as well, the judge said.
"When one of our children passes, it's a part of us that passes," he said.
The judge allowed Carlson to wear a blanket over her head to shield her face from news cameras. She was represented by a public defender from the University of Washington School of Law Tribal Court Public Defense Clinic.
At the prosecutor's request, the judge also ordered Carlson to obtain a chemical dependency evaluation and mental health evaluation. She was forbidden from having any contact with minor children.
Sutten, the police chief, spoke with reporters outside the courthouse after the hearing.
The police investigation is ongoing, he said. The case requires a lot of manpower due to the seriousness of the allegations.
"We're doing everything we can to look at everything," he said. "We want to make sure we look at everything we can."
If convicted as charged, Carlson could face up to a year in jail and fines.
It's not yet clear if the case will stay in tribal court. Snohomish County prosecutors often handle serious, felony-level offenses that happen on tribal lands. The U.S. Attorney's Office also can review tribal cases and file federal charges.
Cash-only bail is standard for tribal court, Sutten said.
Chantel's death has been difficult and painful for many people on the reservation, he said.
Tulalip is a small, close community and many people are related, the police chief said. People are banding together to help each other through the grief.
"When things like this occur, the community comes together," he said.
Carlson's next hearing is set for Oct. 29. No additional arrests are expected.
Rikki King: 425-339-3449; firstname.lastname@example.org
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