The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma is under the leadership of a new chief. Following the retirement of Gregory Pyle, Gary Batton took the oath Monday morning .
Hundreds gathered to witness the swearing in, including local and state government officials, tribal leaders and community leaders from across Oklahoma.
After taking the oath, Batton spoke to guests to proclaim his intentions as chief. He said he does not plan any major changes but will continue the work Pyle began.
Batton said Pyle created a strong foundation from which the tribe can propel. He will continue to focus on health education and job creation, as well as service.
Some things Batton does plan to add are a “wisdom council” of elders, a chaplain for employees, and improved employee and tribal services and benefits.
One of his first official acts as chief was to appoint Olin Williams of Bennington as employee chaplain.
Batton said one thing he stands for is unity.
“My theme is do what is best for Choctaws,” he said.
The new chief said he will continue to work to make the Choctaw Nation self-sustaining.
Batton said this will help not only the tribe but those in surrounding communities as well.
“We are a family,” said Batton. “We are a tribe. We are not a corporation.”
He went on to describe ways he intends to improve employee relations and a plan to match more tribal members to jobs inside the tribe.
Batton began his employment with the Choctaw Nation almost 27 years ago. Pyle said, when he spotted him, he knew Batton would be a hard worker.
According to a recent press release from the Choctaw Nation, “Shortly after Gregory E. Pyle took office in 1997, he appointed Batton to the position of executive director of health and the Choctaw Nation Health System was completely transformed.”
“He is the very best we have,” said Pyle before Batton took the oath.
Batton will carry out the remainder of Pyle’s unexpired term that concludes in July 2015.
At that time, Batton said he does plan to run for election as chief and continue the efforts for which he and Pyle have been working.