Wilma Mankiller, Cherokee chief, dies
Wilma Mankiller, the first female chief of the Cherokee tribe and one of the few women to lead an American Indian tribe, has died this morning of pancreatic cancer, the Cherokee Phoenix reports. Here's the AP version. The Washington Post version is here.
During her 10 years as principal chief, Mankiller helped her tribe triple in size -- it's the second biggest tribe, after the Navajo Nation, in the U.S. She was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame in 1993 and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1998.
Her friends and colleagues spoke highly of her. The Cherokee's current principal chief, Chad Smith, told me she that broke down barriers of bigotry with humility and grace. "She valued everybody's opinion. Her humility built into wisdom and her wisdom into vision.... She made it clear sovereignty of the Cherokee Nation was sacred and she went to the mat many times, making it clear that the Cherokee Nation will not surrender one more acre as long as we live. Her marching orders were to rebuild the nation."
Carolyn McClellan, a Cherokee who is assistant director of community and constituent services at the National Museum of the American Indian, said "She was faced with so much adversity in her life, but you couldn't keep her down. She had such an effervescent spirit. She would not take no for an answer."
She also opened her home to others; it's where her friend Gloria Steinem got married.
She was on the board of the Freedom Forum and Women Empowering Women for Indian Nations, which plans to name a scholarship for her. WEWIN founder Susan Masten said "She was a true warrior and an excellent leader in the sense that she worked tirelessly to improve the lives of everyone else, including her own people, and she did it in a humble way. With all the attention she got and the awards she received... that never changed who she was as a person. She had a very big heart."
April 6, 2010; 12:38 PM ET
Categories: Patricia Sullivan | Tags: Cherokee, Cherokee Nation, Ethnicity, Indigenous, Native Americans in the United States, Pancreatic cancer, Presidential Medal of Freedom, Wilma Mankiller
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