Wilma Mankiller

By Ahmad Burhanuddin, SS


WILMA PEARL MANKILLER was born in November 18, 1945 and died in April 6, 2010  in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. His father is Charley Mankiller (1914-1971), a full blooded Cherokee and her mother is Irene Sitton (born in 1921), a Dutch-Irish descent. She has 10 brothers and sisters. Her oldest brother is Don Mankiller who donated his kidney to Wilma in 1990. In 1963 she married her first husband Hector Hugo Olaya de Bardi (Ecuadorian) and they divorced in 1974. She has 2 daughters, Felicia Olaya and Gina Olaya, and 1 son, Winterhawk. In 1986 she married Charlie Soap, a full blooded Cherokee. She was born in the middle of Cherokee.  Cherokee is the second largest tribe after Navajo. In 1838-1839 Cherokees were herded through The Trail of Tears by federal soldiers.


In 1950s she moved to California following the government relocation program. In 1950 she returned to Oklahoma. In 1976 she returned to Oklahoma  to study at Skyline College San Francisco and continued her graduate program at the State University University of Arkansas. When she was a student she participated in the occupation of Alcatraz in 1969 encouraged by the articulation of being an Indian. She also became a volunteer for Pit River Tribe in California for 5 years reclaiming tribe’s ancestral lands


In 1980 she experienced “spiritual awakening” after a fatal car accident involving her best friend. In 1983 she was elected Deputi Chief of the Cherokee Nation by support from Ross Swimmer. In 1987 she was elected Principal Chief replacing Ross Swimmer who became the head of Bureau of Indian Affairs. In 1991 she was re-elected as Principal Chief Ross Swimmer. During her leadership she made a dramatic increase in tribal revenue and services and attracted new businesses, improved horticultural operations and plants, improving infrastructure such as building new clinics, Job Corps training centers, running water pipeline, Oklahoma, tribal tax commission, building hydroelectric facility, etc.


During her life she was awarded:

1. Ms. Magazine’s “Woman of the Year” in 1987

2. Presidential Medal of Freedom

3. Oklahoma Women’s Hall of Fame

4. Elizabeth Blackwell Award

5. John W. Gardner Leadership Award

6. National Women’s Hall of fame in 1993


1. “Mankiller: A Chief and Her People, an Autobiography” (best seller) (1999)

2. “Everyday is A Good Day: Reflections by Contemporary Indigenous Women” (co-author) (2004)

3. “Reflections on American Indian History: Honoring the Past, building a Future” (editor) (2008)

4. “The chief cooks: traditional Cherokee recipes” (1988)

BEST QUOTE: “Prior to my election, young Cherokee girls would never have thought that they might grow up and become chief.”

(dari berbagai sumber)


About amstudugm

Ordinary people with extraordinary dreams.
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