April 6th, 2010

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R.I.P., Wilma Mankiller (1945-2010)

Today the world lost Wilma Pearl Mankiller. For a decade she served as Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation, and for a lifetime she served as an outspoken champion of the Cherokee people.

For her leadership and vision, she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and was inducted into the Oklahoma Women's Hall of Fame, the National Women's Hall of Fame, and the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame.

I grew up during Chief Mankiller's administration, and I can't remember a time when I didn't think of her as a role model and heroine. I've had the good fortune to teach her writings in my university course on Native American Identity and see how they inspire and challenge students today.

She will not be forgotten.

See a video tribute to Wilma Mankiller here at the Cherokee Nation's website.


"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."
- Principal Chief Chad Smith, Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma