March 10: Native American Woman: Wilma Mankiller

Source: Wikimedia Commons. Photo by Phil Konstantin

Source: Wikimedia Commons. Photo by Phil Konstantin

Wilma Mankiller (please, no jokes about her name; according to Wikipedia, it “refers to a traditional Cherokee military rank; it is Asgaya-dihi in the Cherokee language. Alternative spellings are Outacity or Outacite.”) was principal chief of the Cherokee Nation (beginning in 1985), and was the first woman to hold such a position in a major tribal government. She was also an activist for Native Americans, an interest that work began in 1969 with the Native American occupation of Alcatraz Island. She founded the Cherokee Nation Community Development Department is credited with improving health care, education and tribal governance for the Cherokee Nation.

She was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 1993 and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Bill Clinton in 1998.

Wilma Mankiller