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Chairman Osceola named NAFOA Tribal Leader of the Year

Seminole Tribe of Florida Chairman Marcellus W. Osceola Jr. accepts the NAFOA’s Tribal Leader of the Year award. (Courtesy image)

The Native American Finance Officers Association (NAFOA) named Chairman Marcellus W. Osceola its Tribal Leader of the Year during its virtual fall conference.

The award is in recognition of Chairman Osceola’s “outstanding work and dedication to your tribe as Chairman of the Seminole Tribe of Florida,” Cristina Danforth, NAFOA president, wrote in a letter.

The organization’s 38th annual conference was supposed to be held in Nashville in April, but the Covid-19 pandemic derailed those plans. Instead, the event was held online from Oct. 5-9.

Chairman Osceola accepted the award in a video played during the first day of the conference.

“On behalf of the Seminole Tribe of Florida and its members, I humbly accept the award as Tribal Leader of the Year,” Chairman Osceola said. “It is my distinct pleasure and honor to humbly accept and to let everybody know that I did not know I was up for the award. The things we are doing are not only for our people and our tribe but for all Native Americans and Indigenous people across the world. Making a difference starts with you as a leader. Having the right team around you to help facilitate that dream is most important. So again, thank you.”

NAFOA has bestowed the honor since 2008. Nomination forms are sent to member tribes of the organization and others in the community. The selection is made by the five-member board of directors, who are elected by the membership. The criteria include effectively leading a tribal nation, making major financial decisions and demonstrating significant foresight and resolve in the advancement of his or her tribal nation. Nominees must be the primary leader of the tribe and have been in office for at least one year.

“The award is all encompassing of what they have done for their tribe as a whole,” said VaRene Martin, a member of the Thlopthlocco Tribal Town, NAFOA Director of Tribal and Corporate Relations and 1st Vice President. “He is a young leader and to lead the Seminole Tribe of Florida with everything they have going on is a huge task. People look to the tribe as an example of success in economic development. It was very impressive to buy the Hard Rock and build on it.”

Terence E. O’Farrell, senior vice president of KeyBank, nominated the Chairman because of his sound direction of the tribe and its significant accomplishments in 2019.

“The Tribe is the owner of the Hard Rock brand and operates one of the most successful gaming enterprises in the world,” O’Farrell wrote on the nomination form. “In October 2019, Seminole Hard Rock Hollywood celebrated that grand opening of the iconic Guitar Hotel. The $1.5 billion project is a world class dining and entertainment destination that demonstrates the economic strength and vision of the Tribe. Moreover, in 2019 the Tribe exercised its sovereignty when Chairman Osceola notified the State of Florida that it would end its revenue sharing payments after the State violated terms of the Compact. Chairman has a vision for the Tribe that includes continued economic growth and providing for the health and opportunity of its citizens.”

NAFOA was established in 1982 and is an independent national non-profit organization providing leadership for the advancement of culturally-vibrant American Indian and Alaska Native communities by: promoting excellence in financial management, advocating sound economic and fiscal policy, developing innovative education initiatives, and providing essential information, resources, and support to meet the challenges of economic growth and change. The organization is governed by an all Native American Board of Directors and all proceeds to the organization are channeled back to Indian Country for the benefit and advancement of Native people.

Beverly Bidney
Beverly Bidney has been a reporter and photographer for The Seminole Tribune since 2012. During her career, she has worked at various newspapers around the country including the Muskogee Phoenix in Oklahoma, Miami Herald, Associated Press, USA Today and other publications nationwide. A NAJA award winning journalist, she has covered just about everything over the years and is an advocate for a strong press. Contact her at