Former Chief of the Cherokee Nation
Birthplace: Tahlequah, Oklahoma
Wilma Mankiller was born in Mankiller Flats near Tahlequah, Oklahoma, but as a child was moved with her family to California as part of the Bureau of Indian Affairs Relocation program, an event she details in her book Mankiller: A Chief and Her People.
Mankiller’s concern for Native American issues ignited in 1969 when members of AIM (American Indian Movement) occupied Alcatraz Island to attract attention to issues affecting their tribes. In 1974 she divorced her husband, by whom she had two daughters, and moved back to her ancestral home, where, in 1985, she became the first woman chief of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma and the first female in modern history to lead a major Native American tribe.
She was reelected in 1991, but resigned her position in 1995 for health reasons. Mankiller’s numerous awards include: Oklahoma Women’s Hall of Fame, 1986; Woman of the Year, Ms. magazine, 1987; John W. Gardner Leadership Award, Independent Sector, 1988; National Women’s Hall of Fame, 1993. She married her second husband, Charlie Soap, in 1986.
As principal Chief Mankiller was responsible for 139,000 people and a budget of 69 million. She endorsed Hillary Clinton in the Election, and personal experience with cracking the glass ceiling. She went on to be a trustee of the Ford Foundation and the Freedoms Forum’s Newseum.
She is a co-editor, co-author and a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
The NWHF has several good references on her:
I Own My Vote, PUMA, The Denver Group, Just Say No Deal