People wearing colorful, handmade beaded clothing entered the Silver Star Convention Center two by two, beating drums rhythmically.
Alice Keats and Shemah Crosby, the Mistresses of Ceremonies, and Asa Jimmie, the Master of Ceremonies, welcomed attendees to the second inauguration of Tribal Chief Cyrus Ben on Tuesday afternoon in Philadelphia, Miss.
Choctaw veterans presented the U.S., Mississippi and Choctaw flags; Nana Frazier sang the National Anthem in Choctaw; and Ricky Thompson prayed over Ben as he started his second term as tribal chief.
Ben’s family stood alongside him as Vice Chief Ronnie Henry, Sr. swore him into office.
During his inauguration address, Ben introduced the newly-elected tribal council members.
“(We are) protecting our sovereignty, preserving our culture and yet guiding them forward in protecting future generations,” he said.
Ben is the fifth democratically-elected tribal chief of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, so he gave five guiding principles for his second term in office: Respect, equality, accountability, efficiency and appreciation.
“We want to keep moving forward in the right direction for our people, not only for today, but for many years to come,” he said.
He spoke of the perseverance, strength and culture of the Choctaw people and pledged to protect his constituents. The tribal chief noted his gratitude for the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians and its traditions.
“We consider the drums the heartbeat of the Choctaw people,” Ben said.
A panel of judges crowned 16-year-old Nalani LuzMaria Thompson as the 2023-2024 Choctaw Indian Princess late Wednesday evening. The first alternate was Sydney Alyse Ben and the second alternate was Angel Bahlantah Clemmons.
The 73rd annual Choctaw Indian Fair will close out Saturday night with the Stickball World Series championship.