Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Former Cherokee Chief Wilma Mankiller Passes

Wilma Mankiller, 64, former Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation, died this morning. She was suffering from pancreatic cancer, which she announced just weeks ago. A complete obituary appeared today in the New York Times.

Mankiller served 10 years as principal chief of the Cherokee Nation, beginning in 1987. She was the first woman elected to that position.

In 1998, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Clinton. The Medal of Freedom is the highest honor given civilians in the United States.

President Obama issued this statement today:

"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."

Cherokee Principal Chief Chad Smith issued this statement:

“Our personal and national hearts are heavy with sorrow and sadness with the passing this morning of Wilma Mankiller. 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.”

1 comment:

  1. She was a wonderful gift, not to just the Cherokee nation..but to all Native Americans and a role model for Native American women..