TAHLEQUAH, Okla. - Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr., Deputy Principal Chief Bryan Warner and eight councilors of the Council of the Cherokee Nation pledged Wednesday to preserve, protect and defend the Cherokee Nation Constitution as part of their official oaths of office. They also promised to promote the culture, heritage and traditions of the Cherokee Nation.

More than 1,500 people filled the Chota Conference Center in Tahlequah to watch the swearing-in of elected leaders during the Cherokee Nation inauguration ceremony.

During his inaugural address, Chief Hoskin called on Cherokees to rally around initiatives that bind them as tribal citizens such as caring for elders and children, protecting natural resources and saving the Cherokee language.

“Today, I see our democracy growing stronger,” Chief Hoskin said. “I see the sun is rising. I stand before you as a man who believes that those things that unite us are far more powerful than those things that divide us. I see the Cherokee people working together, moving forward together, and rising together.”

Chief Hoskin is the 18th Constitutionally elected Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation and is only the second elected Principal Chief from Vinita.

“The Cherokee Nation will always need balanced, grounded individuals who adhere to principles that embody democracy,” Deputy Chief Warner, of Sallisaw, said. “I encourage each of us to lift one another in prayer and remember that we have the ability to respond to issues with patience, kindness and civility. It is this kind of self-discipline that gives life and wisdom to our future generations.”

District 1 Councilor Rex Jordan, District 8 Councilor Shawn Crittenden and District 14 Councilor Keith Austin begin their second terms in office.

District 3 Councilor Wes Nofire, District 6 Councilor Daryl Legg, District 12 Councilor Dora L. Smith Patzkowski, and District 13 Councilor Joe Deere all begin their first terms as members of the legislative body. At-Large Councilor Julia Coates returns to office after previously serving on the Council of the Cherokee Nation from 2007-2015.

The inauguration ceremony also featured performances by the Cherokee National Youth Choir and Cherokee Circle.

A traditional meal was served to tribal citizens and the community following the ceremony.