You are here
Home > Community > Tribe’s leadership celebrated on inauguration day

Tribe’s leadership celebrated on inauguration day

The tribe’s elected officials gather at the Council Oak Tree following their inauguration June 5. From left to right are Hollywood Councilman Chris Osceola, Brighton Councilman Larry Howard, Big Cypress Councilwoman Mariann Billie, Chairman Marcellus W. Osceola Jr., President James Holt II, Big Cypress Board Rep. Nadine Bowers, Brighton Board Rep. Bryan Arledge and Hollywood Board Rep. Christine McCall. (Beverly Bidney)

HOLLYWOOD – The Seminole Tribe celebrated its 2023 class of tribal leaders at inauguration day ceremonies June 5 under a large enclosed tent near the Council Oak Tree at the Seminole Classic Casino on the Hollywood Reservation. The tribe’s election day for its Tribal Council and Seminole Tribe of Florida Inc. (STOFI) board members was held May 8.

The celebratory mood would be brief, however, as newly sworn-in STOFI president and Tribal Council vice-chair, James Holt II, died unexpectedly on June 8. He was 44. Holt and seven others were formally recognized at inauguration day festivities.

LaVonne Rose, tribal secretary, served as master of ceremonies. Bureau of Indian Affairs Superintendent Kara John (Seneca Nation of Indians) led the swearing in ceremony. The event was also live streamed on Facebook Live and on Zoom for those who weren’t in attendance.

“What a beautiful day it is to exercise our sovereignty and certify our election results,” Rose said as the event began.

Incumbents returning for additional terms are Chairman Marcellus W. Osceola Jr., Hollywood Councilman Christopher Osceola, Brighton Councilman Larry Howard, Big Cypress Councilwoman Mariann Billie, Hollywood Board Rep. Christine McCall and Big Cypress Board Rep. Nadine Bowers.

Holt joined Brighton Board Rep. Bryan Arledge as the tribe’s new leaders, replacing President Mitchell Cypress and Brighton Board Rep. Helene Buster.

Sallie Tommie read a letter to the audience that she said Cypress wrote for the occasion. She said Cypress, who has served the tribe in various capacities since 1979, wasn’t able to be at the ceremony because of a prior commitment to attend his 1973 Chilocco Indian School class reunion in Newkirk, Oklahoma.

“It has been a great privilege for me to have been given the opportunity to serve the Seminole Tribe of Florida,” the letter read. “We are changing. We are expanding into the 21st century at a fast and furious rate.”

In the letter, Cypress said that the Tribal Council and STOFI board were moving forward with a “collaborative spirit to benefit the needs of tribal members no matter where they live.”

“In the face of crisis situations, together we have shown that whenever there is unity of purpose and the willingness to strive for consensus, we have the capacity to act and address any situation,” the letter read.

Buster was the Brighton board representative for four years. She’s also served in other capacities at the tribe.

“Congratulations to everyone up here. We all have to work hard and do what we need to do to serve our people,” Buster said. “That’s always been one of the biggest things in my life – to be of service to our tribal members.”

In their own words

After Tommie and Buster spoke, the new council and board were sworn-in and Rose called each elected official to the stage to speak. The following are excerpts from each, in the order that they spoke.

Big Cypress Councilwoman Mariann Billie: “I want to thank the tribal members who voted in the election. Whether you were a first-time voter or you’ve been voting for a lifetime for the betterment of our tribe, I want to say thank you. Over the last few years I’ve witnessed a more active civil engagement of our people. We are more informed, we are more vocal, from the youngest to the eldest.”

Big Cypress Board Rep. Nadine Bowers: “Let us take a moment. Close your eyes if you will. And remember that we are in the exact place where it all began for us as the unconquered Seminole Tribe of Florida. It is acknowledgment of the gratitude that comes to my heart when I think of the magnitude of this moment [and] of the position we have each been honored to accept today.”

Brighton Councilman Larry Howard: “The common goal of what we do is to do what’s best for the tribe and for each and every one within the tribe. We try to make things better, so tomorrow is better than today. When you speak of the Seminole Tribe throughout Indian Country – you best believe everyone in the nation knows who we are.”

Brighton Board Rep. Bryan Arledge: “There are no words that can express how proud and thankful I am for where I come from. I’d like to thank the Brighton and Tampa community for coming out on May 8 and electing me and putting their trust in me. I’m going to make sure I give my best going forward, because the community I came from gave me so much.”

Hollywood Councilman Chris Osceola: “We didn’t get here by accident. We got here through a lot of hard work, dedication and determination. There are a lot of great people that sat up here before we probably were even around, and made this tribe what it is today, and the sacrifices that they made got us where we are today. Part of our responsibility is building relationships with one another to work in the best interests of the Seminole Tribe.”

Hollywood Board Rep. Christine McCall: “Today is a great day for STOFI and its shareholders. With over 30 tribal members seeking elected positions, our people not only showed up to represent, but they showed up to have their voice heard. I am proud to stand before you all, not only as a board member of our company, but as a tribal member fulfilling her mission to come back and work for her people.”

President James Holt II: “I am truly honored for this opportunity to serve our people. To the ladies and gentlemen on the board and council: I’m very excited to work with all of you. We have a fantastic opportunity here before us – to work together as a team to find a positive impact for our tribal members. The decisions we make as a leadership body, collectively, will affect us for the next seven generations.”

Chairman Marcellus W. Osceola Jr.: “Thank you for your continued support and sacrifice. I humbly take this position serving other people. Our tribe has changed, our tribe has evolved, because of what my grandfather, his family, his friends did back then. They didn’t let us be terminated. They wouldn’t allow it. They didn’t accept it. We remain unconquered for one reason: because of the sacrifice of our people, our ancestors. So the best thing we can do is to honor them and keep pushing forward for the betterment of the tribe.”

The Tribal Council, from left to right, Hollywood Councilman Chris Osceola, President James Holt II, Big Cypress Councilwoman Mariann Billie, Brighton Councilman Larry Howard and Chairman Marcellus W. Osceola Jr. The president serves as vice chairman of the council. (Beverly Bidney)
With the council to his right and the board to his left, Chairman Marcellus W. Osceola Jr. speaks to the audience. (Beverly Bidney)
BIA Superintendent Kara Johns, at right, swears in STOFI board representatives (from left to right) Christine McCall (Hollywood), Bryan Arledge (Brighton), Nadine Bowers (Big Cypress) and President James Holt II. (Beverly Bidney)
President James Holt II speaks to the audience at the ceremony. (Beverly Bidney)
The Seminole Tribe of Florida Inc.’s board of directors gathers at the Council Oak Tree. From left to right are Big Cypress Board Rep. Nadine Bowers, President James Holt II, Chairman Marcellus W. Osceola Jr., Hollywood Board Rep. Christine McCall and Brighton Board Rep. Bryan Arledge. The chairman serves as vice president of the board. (Beverly Bidney)
Damon Scott
Damon is a multimedia journalist for the Seminole Tribune. He has previously been an editor and reporter for digital and print media in Florida and his home state of New Mexico. Send him an email at