Working together and trusting each other is the message newly-elected Tribal Chief Cyrus Ben delivered to members of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians during his inaugural address on Tuesday.
“We will continue to be blessed by working together and standing together and being a band of people,” Ben said during the ceremony at the Silver Star Resort and Casino in Pearl River.
“I feel forever proud to be part of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, but I've never felt as humbled and honored to be elected as your Tribal Chief,” he said.
Ben, the fifth Tribal Chief elected since the Tribe received federal recognition in 1945, won the seat after beating incumbent Phyliss J. Anderson in the June 2 runoff. The 11,000-member tribe, which controls three casinos and several other business ventures, covers 35,000 acres in ten different counties.
Ben said that even though the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians and other native tribes have faced adversity, they have also been strong.
His passion for serving his community is what drove him to run for chief, and he thanked his family, elders and members of the community for making him the person he is today.
“If it was not for you, I would not have the opportunity to stand before you as Tribal Chief,” he said.
In his speech, Ben touched on several themes he highlighted during his campaign. He encouraged tribal members to treat people with respect and fairness, and to also hold him accountable.
“I said on day one that seeking this office is not about me, although I stand here as your leader, it is about us, the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians,” he emphasized.
Tribal member Elijah Jimmie attended the inauguration and said he was inspired by Ben’s speech. He noted Ben’s experience on the tribal council, education and business background.
"It's not all about him...that is what a real leader should be," Jimmie said.
Robert Garcia said he hopes Ben will focus on creating more technical jobs for tribal members, as that would change the way of living on the reservation.
“I hope the new tribal leader will bring in more tech-savvy companies," Garcia said. "We hope he will push us forward as well."