PHILADELPHIA, Miss. (WLBT) - The Mississippi Band of Choctaws has a new leader and his election is as historic as his predecessors.
Choctaw is a little more than 88 miles from Jackson, near Philadelphia, and Cyrus Ben has become the youngest democratically elected chief in tribal history taking the ceremonial oath of office Tuesday.
A processional with traditional drum beats and music preceded the Ceremonial Oath of Office for 41-year-old Ben, who’s making history as the youngest chief just as Phyliss Anderson made history as the first female chief, serving two terms before him.
Chief Cyrus Ben said, “Well, I raised my hand today and took an oath. Five principles would be respect, fairness and equality, accountability, efficiency and most of all be appreciative and I’m thankful for the people and I’m thankful for the tribe and very blessed to be a part of the tribe of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians.”
The 10-thousand member tribe controls three casinos and a number of other businesses, including a theme park. The tribe covers 35-thousand acres in 10 Mississippi counties.
Ben is no stranger to the workings of the tribal council. He said that’s what’s makes him qualified for the top job.
“That’s correct. I was elected in in 2007 to serve the Pearl River Community and serve as a tribal council representative therefore, I went and served a second term, served 8 years and also served four years as secretary of treasurer,” he said.
There were actually two ceremonies, so that everyone who couldn’t get in the morning event, could have the chance to witness his ascension in the afternoon. Tribal member Tanya Wilder said she’s known Ben a long time and he’s not your typical politician.
“I mean, he’s just the big brother that everybody can talk to,” said Wilder.
Philadelphia Mayor James Young also singing Ben’s praises.
Mayor James Young said, “I think it’s going to be great for the tribe; great for our community. He’s an open, honest guy that’s been a hard worker for the tribe for years. I worked out here for a few years and I know his reputation.”
As for Chief Cyrus Ben, the first order of business: “I would like to welcome each and everyone of you. We’re on the brink of our annual Choctaw Indian Fair. It begins tomorrow, so I would like the public to come out and join us to see out great artist and see out culture; see the artwork of the great people we are and most of all if you like sports, come out and see our world series of stick ball.”
Outgoing Tribal Chief Phyliss Anderson released a statement Tuesday announcing one of her last official duties was to pay off the Choctaw Health Center last week.
Anderson states, “I want the Choctaw people to know I have always been true to my word and the responsibility of financial stability. I am leaving the Tribe in good financial standing and I have been so honored to serve our people and building our Tribe for future generations to enjoy.”