Posts Tagged ‘Wilma Mankiller’



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Tetona Dunlap is a graduate student in journalism at the University of Montana. She is an enrolled member of the Eastern Shoshone tribe from the Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming.

Tetona Dunlap

Tetona Dunlap

If well-behaved women seldom make history, this explains why two influential women who passed away this past week will never be forgotten.

On April 6, Wilma Mankiller died after battling pancreatic cancer. Three days later Minnie Two Shoes died after her own struggle with cancer. I had the chance to meet both of these inspiring Native American women through journalism.

Mankiller came to speak to my class when I participated in the American Indian Journalism Institute in South Dakota in 2003. Mankiller was the first woman to serve the Cherokee people as principal chief. She was an advocate for Native American and women’s rights. She has also written two books. One is an autobiography titled, “Mankiller: A Chief and Her People” and “Every Day Is a Good Day: Reflections by Contemporary Indigenous Women.” As a result of her activism, she was received several awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1998. She was also inducted into the Women’s Hall of Fame in New York City in 1994.

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Red Sox fan, Motown aficionada, poker player and, yes, trailblazing leader, too – friends, family and famous people remember Wilma Mankiller
More than 1,200 people turned out yesterday to memorialize Wilma Mankiller, the former Cherokee leader who became the first woman to lead her nation. “She always saw you a little better than you were, so you became better,” women’s rights activist Gloria Steinem, one of Mankiller’s closest friends, said during the service. As the Associated Press recounts here, under Mankiller’s leadership, the Cherokee Nation tripled its enrollment, doubled employment and built new health centers and children’s programs. She received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Clinton in 1998.

Alaska village health clinic closes because workers fear for safety

The violence in the Yukon River village of Nunam Iqua can get so out of hand — and policing is so minimal — that staffers at the local health clinic have shut it down. The nearest hospital is an hour’s plane ride away and law enforcement is spotty. The Anchorage Daily News reports here that fewer than half the villages in the region have safety officers, meaning the clinic must sometimes treat victims of violence while their attackers are still nearby.

Dry weather traps cattle on Navajo Nation; several die trapped in stock tanks
Stock tanks on the Navajo Nation are drying up after a long, wet winter, trapping cattle who become mired in deep mud, then ironically die of thirst, according to this Navajo Times story. The fast-drying conditions disguise the mud beneath the surface soils, says Chapter President Ron Gishey Sr., who’s been using his truck and chains to free several trapped cattle.

Former Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes leader to run for Legislature
James Steele Jr., former tribal council chairman of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, formally announced his candidacy for the Montana Legislature. Steele is running for the state House of Representatives. The Char-Koosta News reports here that Steele will host a reception at Salish Kootenai College between 4:30 and 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Kyiyo
University of Montana’s Kyi Yo powwow is next weekend!

The skills of some of the best Native American dancers and drum groups in North America will be on display at the annual Kyi-Yo Celebration on Friday and Saturday, April 16-17, at the University of Montana’s Adams Center. The theme of this year’s celebration of heritage and artistry is “Existing in the 21st Century.” The first Grand Entry event will be held at 7 p.m. Friday. Saturday Grand Entry times are noon and 6 p.m. Head dancers this year are UM students Tashina Hunter and Darin Cadman Sr. More information is on the Kyi-Yo Web site. See the Missoulian story, here, for activities at the University of Montana all week that coincide with Kyi-Yo.

Gwen Florio

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Here‘s President Barack Obama’s statement, in full below, on yesterday’s passing of former Cherokee Nation leader Wilma Mankiller. And, the video above has a brief retrospective of Mankiller’s life (there’s a short ad, then you have to click again to watch it).

    I am deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Wilma Mankiller today. 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. Her legacy will continue to encourage and motivate all who carry on her work. 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 Chief, says that “We are better people and a stronger tribal nation because her example of Cherokee leadership, statesmanship, humility, grace, determination and decisiveness.”

Read the tribe’s full statement, as well as condolences from others, here.

And, in this Wall Street Journal story, Mankiller both acknowledges her historic role as a female leader, and pays tribute to her ancestors, reminding people that “”Early historians referred to our government as a petticoat government because of the strong role of the women in the tribe. So in 1687 women enjoyed a prominent role, but in 1987 we found people questioning whether women should be in leadership positions anywhere in the tribe.”

The tribe’s site reports that Mankiller requested that any gifts in her honor be made as donations to One Fire Development Corp., a nonprofit dedicated to advancing Native American communities though economic development, and to valuing the wisdom that exists within each of the diverse tribal communities around the world.

For tax deductible donations, click here or here. The mailing address for One Fire Development Corporation is 1220 Southmore Houston, TX 77004.

A memorial service is scheduled for Saturday at 11a.m. at the Cherokee Nation Cultural Grounds in Tahlequah.

Gwen Florio

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Former Cherokee Nation Chief Wilma Mankiller during a 2004 interview in Stilwell, Okla. Mankiller, who was one of the few women ever to lead a major American Indian tribe, died Tuesday April 6, 2010 after battling pancreatic cancer. (AP Photo/Muskogee Daily Phoenix, Jerry Willis)

Former Cherokee Nation Chief Wilma Mankiller during a 2004 interview in Stilwell, Okla. Mankiller, who was one of the few women ever to lead a major American Indian tribe, died Tuesday April 6, 2010 after battling pancreatic cancer. (AP Photo/Muskogee Daily Phoenix, Jerry Willis)


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In this Jan. 15, 1998 file photo, President Bill Clinton hugs former Cherokee Nation chief Wilma Mankiller after presenting her with a Presidential Medal of Freedom during a ceremony at the White House. (AP Photo/Dennis Cook, File)

In this Jan. 15, 1998 file photo, President Bill Clinton hugs former Cherokee Nation chief Wilma Mankiller after presenting her with a Presidential Medal of Freedom during a ceremony at the White House. (AP Photo/Dennis Cook, File)


Here’s the entire story from Associated Press writers Murray Evans and Rochelle Hines:

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Former Cherokee Nation Chief Wilma Mankiller, one of the nation’s most visible American Indian leaders and one of the few women to lead a major tribe, died Tuesday after suffering from cancer and other health problems. She was 64.

Mankiller, whose first taste of federal policy toward Indians came when her family ended up in a housing project after a government relocation project, took Indian issues to the White House and met with three presidents. She earned a reputation for facing conflict head-on.

As the first female chief of the Cherokees, from 1985 to 1995, Mankiller led the tribe in tripling its enrollment, doubling employment and building new health centers and children’s programs.

“We feel overwhelmed and lost when we realize she has left us, but we should reflect on what legacy she leaves us,” current Cherokee Chief Chad Smith said. “We are better people and a stronger tribal nation because her example of Cherokee leadership, statesmanship, humility, grace, determination and decisiveness.”

Mankiller met snide remarks about her surname — a Cherokee military title — with humor, often delivering a straight-faced, “Mankiller is actually a well-earned nickname.”
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Wilma Mankiller

Wilma Mankiller

Wilma Mankiller, who as chief of the Cherokee Nation was the first woman to lead a tribe, has been diagnosed with Stage IV metastatic pancreatic cancer.

Mankiller addressed the issue publicly in a statement, recounted here by The News on 6 in Okalahoma:

“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 says. “I learned a long time ago that I can’t control the challenges the Creator sends my way but I can control the way I think about them and deal with them.

As the News on 6 recounts:

    During her 10 years as chief, Mankiller’s tribe tripled in size to become the country’s second-largest.

    She was a leader who revolutionized Cherokee education, health care and business. The tribe now has a high school in Tahlequah. A multi-million dollar Cherokee health center bears Mankiller’s name. And Mankiller herself took a key role in the businesses that now comprise Cherokee Nation Enterprises.

This is not Mankiller’s first bout with cancer. She was treated for lymphoma shortly after leaving office, yet maintained a busy schedule traveling and speaking.

She asks that people who want to send her messages e-mail her at wilmapmankiller@yahoo.com.

Here‘s the official announcement from the Cherokee Nation, with a list of Mankiller’s accomplishments.

Gwen Florio

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