HOLLYWOOD — With a nod to the past and a vision for the future, Marcellus W. Osceola Jr. was sworn in as the Seminole Tribe of Florida’s chairman on the morning of Jan. 9 in front of a packed auditorium at tribal headquarters.
As his peers from the Tribal Council and Board of Directors joined him on stage and family members, friends, and Tribal employees watched, Chairman Osceola
raised his right hand and took the oath of office as administered by Bruce Maytubby, a regional director of the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
“Today is historic because today a new generation takes us into the future,” Chairman Osceola told the audience.
Sally Tommie served as host for the inauguration, which began with a prayer from Jimmy Hank Osceola. Tommie then called members of the Council and Board to the stage.
“This day is a perfect representation of unity for the Seminole Tribe of Florida,” she said.
Later, Tommie’s comments paralleled those of John F. Kennedy on his inauguration day.
“When you ask your leaders for things that might be needed in your homes, your lives, whatever personally, professionally, it must also be understood that we mustn’t always look to what our leaders and our Seminole Tribe can do for us, but what we – as Seminole Tribal citizens – can do to assist our leaders and to assist our Tribe moving forward,” she said.
Following the oath ceremony, Chairman Osceola, who won the seat in a special election, immediately paid homage to the Tribe’s past while emphasizing unity, a theme that was stressed throughout the morning. Among his first remarks as chairman was a reminder to the audience that “August 21st of 1957 was the birth,” in reference to Seminoles signing and adopting the Constitution and Charter 60 years ago.
Chairman Osceola said now that the campaign is over, it’s time to reunite.
“Let’s come back together as a family, one Tribe, because that’s who we truly are,” he said. “For us to succeed, for us to get here to where we are today, is what it took in 1957 when they thought about the Seminole Tribe of Florida. It is our job today to carry us into the future.”
The chairman encouraged young Tribal members to get involved and to “ask an elder what do they remember so you remember where you came from and help you to where you are going.”
Chairman Osceola’s reminisced for a moment about his younger days.
“Where we are at today, what I remember, was a hog farm,” he said while also recalling that the corner of Stirling Road and 441 years ago only had a small BIA office building, pow-wow grounds and an arts and crafts building.
Culture and education were among the topics that the chairman mentioned in his address.
“We all have to work at it,” Chairman Osceola said in reference to culture preservation before he stressed the importance of education. “Educating our Tribal members is most important I think to all of us because how are we going to fight in the new world. There’s no more guns; there’s no more battlefields. We fight in the courtrooms today. So we’re all well-educated [and] diverse in what we need to do to make sure we instill the future of this Tribe.”
Chairman Osceola also invoked humor. “To a lot of you, I’m just a kid. 44-years-old. To my kids, I’m an old man,” he said.
Chairman Osceola recognized guests in the audience, including Steve Tooshkenig, of the Walpole Island First Nation, and Bill Taylor, chairman of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.
Chairman Osceola will complete the remainder of the previous chairman’s four-year term.
“We’re going to work hard; we’re going to work tirelessly to make sure we have a brighter future,” he said. “We have two years and five months to make a difference, and I know we can do it.”
Following his address, Council and Board members congratulated and praised the new chairman.
“Today is a great day,” said Seminole Tribe of Florida, Inc. President Mitchell Cypress. “God has blessed us with a great leader …”
Hollywood Councilman Chris Osceola said he’s known the chairman his entire life, having grown up across the street from each other on the reservation.
“I’m extremely confident that he has what it takes to lead this Tribe,” Councilman Osceola said. “I know he’s a man of integrity; he’s a man of his word. Like he said, there’s going to be changes, and not everybody likes change, but in the world we live in today, things have to change in order to get to the next level, in order to grow as a tribe.”
Hollywood Board Rep. Steve Osceola said he fully supports the new chairman and noted that Chairman Osceola is only the third person to hold the seat in the past 30 years.
Junior Miss Florida Seminole Thomlynn Billie also addressed the audience.
After the formal words were finished, the new chairman greeted a long line of wellwishers in front of the stage for more than an hour before he embarked on his first day of work as the leader of the Tribe.