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
"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.
Tsi'yu-gunsini - Dragging Canoe, Chickamaugas Chief Tsi'yu-gunsini was a war leader who led a dissident band of young Cherokees against the United States in the American Revolutionary War. Dragging Canoe is considered by many to be the most significant leader of the Southeast, and provided a significant role model for the younger Tecumseh, who was a member of a band of Shawnee living with the Chickamaugas and taking part in their wars.