Wilma Mankiller Obituary: former Cherokee chief dies at age 64
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 Wilma Mankiller
 Obituary: former Cherokee chief dies at age 64

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Wilma Mankiller Obituary: former Cherokee chief dies at age 64

Wilma Mankiller, the first woman to lead the Cherokee native American tribe, died Tuesday, April 6, 2010, after a battle with pancreatic cancer, Cherokee leaders announced Tuesday. She was 64.

Mankiller was best known for her leadership of her tribe, at which she served 12 years in elective office, the first two as deputy principal chief followed by 10 years as principal chief.

During her time in office and beyond, she was viewed nationwide as a strong Native American advocate, and had many friends in the women's rights movement.

Mankiller retired from public office in 1995, but was never far from the public eye, serving as a board member on various organizations, including the Women Empowering Women for Indian Nations nonprofit. She also shared her wisdom at several learning institutions, including the University of Arizona.

Among her many honors, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Bill Clinton, which is the highest honor that can be awarded to a US civilian.

"Our personal and national hearts are heavy with sorrow and sadness with the passing this morning of Wilma Mankiller," said Chad Smith, principal chief of the Cherokee Nation, in a press release.

"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. When we become disheartened, we will be inspired by remembering how Wilma proceeded undaunted through so many trials and tribulations.

"Years ago, she and her husband Charlie Soap showed the world what Cherokee people can do when given the chance, when they organized the self-help water line in the Bell community. She said Cherokees in that community learned that it was their choice, their lives, their community and their future. Her gift to us is the lesson that our lives and future are for us to decide. We can carry on that Cherokee legacy by teaching our children that lesson.

Please keep Wilma's family, especially her husband Charlie and her daughters, Gina and Felicia, in your prayers."

Mankiller requested that any gifts in her honor be made as donations to One Fire Development Corporation, a nonprofit dedicated to advancing Native American communities.

Tax deductible donations can be made at www.wilmamankiller.com as well as www.onefiredevelopment.org. The mailing address for One Fire Development Corporation is 1220 Southmore Houston, TX 77004.

According to the Cherokee Nation, Mankiller's memorial service will be held April 11 at the Cherokee Nation Cultural Grounds in Tahlequah, Oklahoma.

Read more about Wilma ManKiller.


Wilma Mankiller (November 1945 - April 2010)

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