Learn about the legacy of Wilma Mankiller, who overcame sexism to emerge as the Cherokee Nation’s first woman Principal Chief. Through archival footage and interviews, MANKILLER examines the life of one of the country’s most important woman leaders.
As a child, Wilma Mankiller’s family was relocated from Oklahoma to San Francisco, and although the move was traumatic, it was in the Bay Area during the turbulent 1960s that she became involved in the movements for civil, human and women’s rights. This time in her life is significant because she brought this passion back to Oklahoma and the Cherokee Nation.
When Wilma began working for the Cherokee Nation, one of her first jobs was to bring water to a small town. She successfully organized an entire community to complete the ambitious task themselves as a self-help project. She identified the money for the materials and then worked alongside them. Wilma felt the success of the project was symbolic of the revitalization of the entire Cherokee Nation.
Although Wilma Mankiller considered herself a liberal Democrat, as Deputy Chief she was chosen by a conservative Republican and was known as a uniter of all people. Wilma launched many cutting edge initiatives that substantially improved living conditions during her tenure; this clip highlights her unifying leadership style especially in relation to improving the Cherokee medical system.