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Adair County, Oklahoma
Wilma P Mankiller
|Wilma Pearl Mankiller||© Tahlequah Daily Press (OK)
|April 12, 2010|
|Submitted by: Jo Aguirre
Born on Nov. 18, 1945, Wilma Pearl Mankiller spent her personal and public life believing that every day on this earth was a good day. A champion for the Cherokees, she became a symbol to Native people all over the continent. She seamlessly bridged gaps between timeless Cherokee communities and the demands of the 21st century. While her work for communities and for her people drew international attention, she was a rare person who was as comfortable in the White House as she was in a farmhouse. Wilma was not only an author, lecturer and a leader of people but also a mother, a daughter, a wife and neighbor. She was a sister and a friend. She overcame personal and professional challenges with a grace that belied the difficulty of the task.
Wilma was the founding director of the Cherokee Nation Community Development Department, which received several national awards for innovative use of self-help inhousing and water projects in low-income Cherokee communities. In 1983, she was elected the first female deputy chief of the Cherokee Nation. In 1985, she became principal chief of the Cherokee Nation when Ross Swimmer resigned to lead the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs. In l987, she was elected to serve as the first female principal chief of the Cherokee Nation, and was overwhelmingly re-elected in 1991. She chose not to seek re-election in l995.
During Wilma's tenure she met with Presidents Reagan, Bush and Clinton to present critical tribal issues, and she and Navajo Nation President Peterson Zah co-chaired a national conference between tribal leaders and cabinet members which helped facilitate the establishment of an Office of Indian Justice within the U.S. Department of Justice. Wilma's administration was also marked by a great deal of new development, including several new free-standing health clinics, an $11 million Job Corps Center, and greatly expanded services for children and youth. She led the team that developed the core businesses of the Cherokee Nation, including what is now Cherokee Nation Entertainment.
She was a force on many boards, including the Ford Foundation, the Freedom Foundation and the Ms. Foundation for Women. She was honored with many awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the United States. She authored and co-authored several works, including "Every Day is a Good Day," "Mankiller: A Chief and Her People," and "A Reader's Companion to the History of Women in the U.S." She also contributed to other publications, including Native Universe, the inaugural publication of the National Museum of the American Indian.
She is survived by her mother Clara Irene Mankiller of Stilwel; her husband Charlie Soap of Stilwel; her daughters Felicia Olaya and Gina Olaya of Tahlequah; her stepsons, Chris Soap and wife Sylvia of Pryor, Cobey Soap of Tahlequah, Winterhawk Soap and wife Martha of Midland, Texas; four brothers, Don Mankiller and wife Vena of Stilwell, Richard Mankiller of Tahlequah, Jim Mankiller and wife Lula of Park Hill, and Bill Mankiller and wife Annette of Stilwell; four sisters, Fredia Mullins of Stilwell, Frances Willingham and husband Bob of Tahlequah, Linda Sanchez of Tulsa, and Vanessa Mankiller of Stilwell; and by 10 grandchildren and one great grandchild.
She is preceded in death by her father Charley Mankiller and her brothers Johnny Mankiller and Bob Mankiller.
Wilma requested that any gifts in her honor be made as donations to One Fire Development Corporation, a nonprofit dedicated to advancing Native American communities through economic development, and to valuing the wisdom that exists within each of the diverse tribal communities around the world.
Tax deductible donations can be made at: http://www.wilmamankiller.com/ or http://www.onefiredevelopment.org/. The mailing address for One Fire Development Corporation is: 1220 Southmore, Houston, Texas, 77004.
Messages for the family can be sent to: www.wilmamankiller.com.
Reed-Culver Funeral Home, 117 W. Delaware, 456-2551.
Copyright 2010, Tahlequah Daily Press / Community Newspaper Holdings, Inc. (CNHI). All Rights Reserved.
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