It was standing room only during the swearing-in ceremony for the newly re-elected and elected tribal representatives and elected Assistant Chief.
The event was held at the Jim Proctor Elder Center, Saturday, January 10.
Joe Bunch was elected in a special election to serve out the final two-years of the late Assistant Chief Charles Locust’s four-year term. With his wife Karen standing beside him as she held Bunch’s grandfather’s bible that was presented to Joseph Proctor in 1939, Bunch placed his left hand on the bible and held his right hand up, taking the oath of office for Assistant Chief which was given by Judge Dewayne Littlejohn, UKB tribal district judge, for the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians.
After the Assistant Chief swearing-in, UKB District Judge Littlejohn gave the oath of office to the nine District Representatives as each one held up their right hand and took their oath of office.
In a brief speech Chief Wickliffe informed everyone that the tribal officers held four-year terms and that Joe Bunch was elected in a special election to fulfill the last two-years of the late Assistant Chief Charles Locust’s four-year term.
"We have many ongoing issues that are vital to the tribe and I want the council to focus and stay focused on these important issues. The late Assistant Chief Locust had been involved throughout my tenure which began in 2005. I do not want to lose track on where we are going. We are going to continue with all our efforts to get this land in trust and it will happen,” said Chief Wickliffe.
Newly sworn-in Assistant Chief Joe Bunch was given the opportunity to address the audience.
Assistant Chief Bunch thanked everyone who was involved in his election bid for the second-in-command position for the UKB.
“It’s been a long five months, ladies and gentlemen, I appreciate all the work everyone did to make this possible for me and my family,” said Assistant Chief Bunch.
“My campaign was pretty much small, short, and simple, to bring unity back into the tribe. I’m looking forward to all the progressthat is in place, working with the tribal council and with the Chief. I want to say thank you to the council and together as a team we will get this accomplished, we will get our land in trust and we’re going to move forward,” added Bunch.
Tribal Representatives Eddie Sacks, Canadian District; Clifford Wofford, Cooweescoowee District; Peggy Girty, Illinois District; and Charles Smoke, Saline District; all ran unopposed while Jerry Hansen, Delaware District; Tom Duncan, Flint District; William Christie, Goingsnake District; and Barry Dotson, Sequoyah District; all ran for re-election and defeated their opponents. In the Tahlequah District incumbent Betty Holcomb was defeated in a run-off election by Anile Locust who became the only new representative on the tribal council.
The new Tahlequah District representative said she felt excited about the morning event and looked forward to the new adventure in her life.
“Since I’m very new to the community I am honored that people chose me not knowing me, so I feel real honored about that and I’ll do my best to live up to their expectations. I want to learn all I can about the workings of the government so that I can hopefully improve the way our people live and looking forward to getting our land in trust,” said Locust.
When asked how he felt about being sworn-in as the newly elected Assistant Chief, Bunch responded by saying, “I think it’s a great achievement for the tribal people and I’m honored. We have many hurdles ahead of us, the first thing we need to do is bring the word united back into the tribe.
The people have spoken; they want integrity, accountability, and transparency in their leaders. It’s going to be wonderful sharing new ideas together, having the opportunity to speak and be heard. Not every idea is going to be accepted, but through negotiations and working together we can make it happen,” said Bunch.
A short reception followed before the Chief, Assistant Chief and tribal council adjourned to begin their first 2015 tribal council meeting.