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Wilma Mankiller

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Date: 2021
Publisher: Gale, part of Cengage Group
Document Type: Biography
Length: 287 words
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About this Person
Born: November 18, 1945 in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, United States
Died: April 06, 2010 in Oklahoma, United States
Nationality: American
Occupation: Tribal leader
Other Names: Mankiller, Wilma Pearl; Mankiller, Wilma P.
Full Text: 

Wilma Mankiller Wilma Mankiller fought for Native American rights. Wilma Mankiller fought for Native American rights. © Michael Germana/Everett Collection

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Words to Know

assistant to the chief

Wilma Mankiller was a Native American chief. This is a leader. She was chief of the Cherokee Nation. She was the first woman to do this. She did this from 1985 to 1995.

Early Life

Wilma Mankiller was born in 1945. She was born in Oklahoma. Her father was Charley. He was Cherokee. Her mother was Clara. She was Irish. She was also Dutch.

Her family moved to California. She was 10 years old then.

The Cherokee Nation

Mankiller married. This was in 1963. She was only 17. They had two daughters.

They divorced. They were no longer married. Then she went back to Oklahoma. She went to work. She wanted to help her people.

The Cherokee are Native Americans. She worked for their government.

She worked on a project. The Cherokee lived in communities. They were often poor. Some did not have running water.

She helped them. She had water brought to them. She had new homes built, too. She helped them find jobs. She helped their children, too. She helped them go to school.

A man was chief then. Mankiller worked for him. She became his deputy.

Cherokee Chief

He resigned. Then Mankiller was chief. This was in 1985. She was the first Cherokee woman to do this. She was chief until 1995.

Mankiller married again. His name was Charlie Soup.

She stopped being chief then. Her health was not good. She still worked to help Native Americans. She also taught college.

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In Wilma Mankiller’s Own Words

“We must trust our own thinking. Trust where we’re going. And get the job done.”

Mankiller won many awards. She died on April 6, 2010.


Family: Sixth of eleven children born to Charley and Clara Irene (Sitton) Mankiller; married Hector Hugo Olaya de Bardi in 1963 (divorced 1974); children: Felicia Olaya and Gina Olaya; married Charlie Soap in 1986. Education: Attended Skyline College and San Francisco State; earned a bachelor’s degree in social sciences from Flaming Rainbow University in Oklahoma; took graduate courses at the University of Arkansas.

Source Citation

Source Citation   

Gale Document Number: GALE|UETFQU254879728