Wilma Mankiller was born in 1945 in the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. Her family moved to San Francisco as a part of the government program to urbanize Native Americans. Wilma went to college in San Francisco and got married to an Ecuadorian man, but they divorced due to his philosophies about a woman’s place in his life. After this, Wilma Mankiller moved back to Tahlequah with her two children. Wilma Mankiller worked with the Cherokee government once she got settled in the Cherokee Nation. While she was working, she continued to pursue more education.
By 1983, she was the deputy chief of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, and, only two years later, she was elected as the Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation. Wilma accomplished a lot within her two terms from 1985-1995. She started the Bell Water Project, which ensured that every home within the Cherokee Nation got piped water. She also oversaw the construction of medical clinics and also worked towards improving the quality of education for the Cherokees.
Wilma’s history is important because she became Chief of the Cherokee Nation in a male-dominated environment. She also managed to be in this office for two terms and accomplished a lot during her time. In addition, Wilma Mankiller also serves as an inspiration for aspiring leaders, especially female leaders and leaders of color. Although she was not a politician, she still received honors from the Congress of the United States and sadly died of cancer on April 6, 2010.
Source: The Life of Wilma Mankiller