Former Cherokee Nation Chief Wilma Mankiller dies
Condensed from an article by Christina Good Voice, Cherokee Phoenix

Wilma Mankiller gave the keynote address at the first conference for The International Council of Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers. She became an important part of the dialogue on many issues.

TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Former Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Wilma Mankiller died in the morning hours of April 6, [2010], at her home in rural Adair County

Mankiller, who was one of the few women ever to lead a major American Indian tribe, was 64.

 Former CherokeeHer passing came a little more than a month after her husband,  Charlie Soap, announced that she was diagnosed with advanced pancreatic cancer.

In a March 2 news release, Soap said Mankiller had stage 4 metastatic pancreatic cancer but gave no other details.

In the release, Mankiller wrote she was prepared for the journey. I decided to issue this statement because I want my family and friends to know that I am mentally and spiritually prepared for this journey, a journey that all human beings will take at one time or another,” she wrote. “It’s been my privilege to meet and be touched by thousands of people in my life, and I regret not being able to deliver this message personally to so many of you.”

Mankiller served as principal chief from 1985 until retiring in 1995. Prior to becoming principal chief, she served as deputy chief under Ross Swimmer. She assumed the principal chief position and served out the remainder of the 1983-87 term after Swimmer resigned to take a Bureau of Indian Affairs job in Washington, D.C. She was elected principal chief in 1987 and 1991.

Mankiller was born on Nov. 18, 1945, at W.W. Hastings Indian Hospital in Tahlequah.

Memorial services will be April 10 at 11 a.m. at the Cherokee Nation Cultural Grounds in Tahlequah.

Reactions to Wilma Mankiller's Passing

U.S. House honors Wilma Mankiller’s service

From the National Women's Hall of Fame:
Wilma Mankiller, 1945-2010

Reactions to Wilma Mankiller's Passing


Barack Obama, President of the United States:
"As the Cherokee Nation’s first female chief, she transformed the nation-to-nation relationship between the Cherokee Nation and the federal government, and served as an inspiration to women in Indian Country and across America.
"A recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, she was recognized for her vision and commitment to a brighter future for all Americans.
"Michelle and I offer our condolences to Wilma’s family, especially her husband Charlie and two daughters, Gina and Felicia, as well as the Cherokee Nation and all those who knew her and were touched by her good works."

 Chad Smith, Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation

“Our personal and national hearts are heavy with sorrow and sadness with the passing this morning of Wilma Mankiller.  We feel overwhelmed and lost when we realize she has left us but we should reflect on what legacy she leaves us. We are better people and a stronger tribal nation because her example of Cherokee leadership, statesmanship, humility, grace, determination and decisiveness."
“When we become disheartened, we will be inspired by remembering how Wilma proceeded undaunted through so many trials and tribulations. Years ago, she and her husband Charlie Soap showed the world what Cherokee people can do when given the chance, when they organized the self-help water line in the Bell community. She said Cherokees in that community learned that it was their choice, their lives, their community and their future. Her gift to us is the lesson that our lives and future are for us to decide. We can carry on that Cherokee legacy by teaching our children that lesson. Please keep Wilma’s family, especially her husband Charlie and her daughters, Gina and Felicia, in your prayers.”

John Berrey, Quapaw Tribal Chairman:
"We have lost a great leader and inspiration.  Much of what we have is part of Chief Mankiller's legacy."

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar:
“On behalf of all Interior employees, and especially those in Indian Affairs who knew and worked with Wilma, I want to extend our heartfelt sympathy and prayers to her family for their comfort and peace. Throughout her long career of advocating the best for her people, and all of Indian Country, Wilma was a shining example of courage and leadership for all Americans. We will miss her dearly, but we know that her spirit and example live on, encouraging all American Indians to stand up for what they believe in and to step up and accept the challenge of serving in leadership roles.”

Patricia L. Whitefoot, President of the National Indian Education Association
 "On behalf of the National Indian Education Association, it is with heartfelt sympathy that our condolences are extended to the family of former Chief Wilma Mankiller and the Cherokee Nation.  Chief Mankiller’s unwavering vision and compassionate leadership has been demonstrated many times as Native people strive to achieve self sufficiency.  Her legacy will continue to inspire the vision of NIEA as we work to advance Indian education in Indian country.  It is with pride Native children have culturally responsive books and materialsin their classrooms and libraries with positive Native role models inspired by people such as Chief Mankiller.  We join Indian Country in the mourning of Chief Mankiller, truly a wonderful leader who inspired the world."

Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry:
“As a leader and a person, Chief Wilma Mankiller continually defied the odds and overcame seemingly insurmountable obstacles to better her tribe, her state and her nation. Oklahoma, the Cherokee Nation and the United States will dearly miss Wilma and her visionary leadership, but her words and deeds will live on forever to benefit future generations.’’

U.S. Assistant Secretary of the Interior/Head of the Bureau of Indian Affairs Larry Echo Hawk:
“She willingly reached out beyond her tribal community and Indian Country in search of solutions to the social and economic challenges facing the Cherokee people, while sharing her knowledge and insights with anyone who needed them. We honor her with our gratitude for all she has contributed in service to her people and to Indian Country.”

U.S. Rep. Dan Boren:
“Her desire to serve her tribe both broke barriers and was a shining example of compassion and dedication.”

U.S. Rep. Mary Fallin:
“Oklahoma has lost a legend. Chief Mankiller was a true trailblazer in our state’s history, as well as an esteemed and revered leader of her tribe. Her leadership is an inspiration to us all, reminding us to challenge the status quo and overcome barriers for the betterment of our neighbors, our communities and our nation as a whole.”

U.S. Rep. Tom Cole:
“Chief Mankiller was not only the first woman to serve as Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation, she was a national icon and role model for women and Native Americans everywhere. Her strong, visionary and principled leadership set a standard seldom equaled and never to be surpassed. I had the opportunity over the years to get to know Chief Mankiller personally. She was tough, shrewd and dedicated to the well-being of the Cherokee Nation and all Native Americans. No one more fiercely defended the concept of tribal sovereignty, yet no one was more willing to partner with others of different backgrounds and points of view than Wilma Mankiller.”

Oklahoma University President David Boren:
“Wilma Mankiller made a lasting mark on our state and nation. She helped all Americans understand the need to preserve the basic values of community and stewardship which are central to Native American culture. Above all, through her example she taught us the power of kindness and how to live and die with dignity.”

NSU President Don Betz:
“We are so blessed to have had the privilege to work alongside Wilma Mankiller as part of the NSU community. Her contributions as an advocate for Native American and indigenous peoples worldwide, and her commitment to the role of women in leadership, will continue to inspire individuals in all walks of life and have impact beyond our lifetimes."

Oklahoma Senate President
Glenn Coffee:
“Chief Wilma Mankiller brought honor to Oklahoma and the Cherokee tribe through her leadership not only within our state and among tribal leaders, but certainly her influence was felt across our nation. She leaves a legacy of service that will be sorely missed by all.”

Danny Morgan, Democratic leader in the Oklahoma House:
“She was a pioneer for her generation, and for the generations of women to follow,” Morgan said. “It would be hard to overstate what a great role model she was, not only as a woman and a Cherokee, but as a leader and a public servant. Her death is a loss for all Oklahomans.”

Rep. Jeannie McDaniel, D-Tulsa:
“As an activist, a leader, a writer, and a woman she forged a path for all of us. She shared her values of family and earth and our interconnectedness, and we’re all better for having known her.”

Rep. Mike Brown, Democratic floor leader and a fellow Cherokee:
“This is a great loss, for the Cherokee tribe, for the Tahlequah community, and for the state of Oklahoma. Her leadership and her policies will have a continuing effect for decades to come,” said Rep. Brown, a Tahlequah resident. “It was my honor to have known her, and to have seen first-hand the positive impact of her leadership.”

Okla. Democratic Party Chair Todd Goodman:
“Through scores of trials and mountains of adversity, Wilma Mankiller always pressed on with her work to advance the causes nearest to her heart. She pressed on, with the weight of previous generations and the hope of future generations always on her mind, directing her to do the most good. Wilma Mankiller will be dearly missed, but her legacy will always live and her fight will go on.”


U.S. House honors Wilma Mankiller’s service

WASHINGTON — The U.S. House passed a resolution Wednesday honoring Wilma Mankiller, the former Cherokee Nation leader who died April 6 and has been praised as an inspiration to American Indians and women.

In a tribute on the House floor, Oklahoma Republican Rep. Tom Cole, a member of the Chickasaw Nation, said, "I knew Wilma Mankiller very well. She led a life based on principles. The first one was just absolute personal integrity — one of the most honest and honorable people I ever met in my life.

"The second was humility. She was the most approachable person that you would ever want to know — a total lack of pretension. And she believed very profoundly in service to others. Service, yes, to her tribe, service, yes, to Native Americans, but service beyond, as a creed and as a value that she lived and acted on every single day of her life.”

Mankiller, 64, was the first female principal chief of the Cherokee Nation, the nation’s second largest tribe. She served in the position from 1985 to 1995.

In 1998, former President Bill Clinton presented her the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.

"I am pleased the House moved swiftly to acknowledge Chief Wilma Mankiller’s life and career, and to express its deep sorrow on her passing,” said Rep. Dan Boren, D-Muskogee.

"Chief Mankiller was an inspiration to her tribe and to the nation. Her dedication to improving women’s role within the Cherokee Nation, and her work strengthening her tribe’s nation-to-nation relationship with the U.S.
 government make her a beloved and legendary figure in Oklahoma.”


From the National Women's Hall of Fame
Wilma Mankiller, 1945-2010

As the powerful, visionary first woman Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation, Wilma Mankiller was responsible for 139,000 people and a $69 million budget.

Mankiller spent her formative years in San Francisco, where she learned about the women's movement and organizing. When she returned to her native Oklahoma, Mankiller used her skills to help the Cherokee Nation, starting community self-help programs and teaching people ways out of poverty. In 1983 she ran for deputy chief of the Nation, and in 1985 Mankiller became Principal Chief. Mankiller brought about important strides for the Cherokees, including improved health care, education, utilities management and tribal government. Future plans call for attracting higher-paying industry to the area, improving adult literacy, supporting women returning to school and more. Mankiller also lived in the larger world, active in civil rights matters, lobbying the federal government and supporting women's activities and issues. She said: "We've had daunting problems in many critical areas, but I believe in the old Cherokee injunction to 'be of a good mind.' Today it's called positive thinking."


National Indian Education Association

Wilma Mankiller   Other Women Elders Native Village Home Page

Background: Robert Kaufman Fabrics: http://www.robertkaufman.com/
Click on pictures for source.