First Female Chief of Cherokee Nation
Wilma Mankiller, fully Wilma Pearl Mankiller
First Female Chief of Cherokee Nation
Western movies always seemed to show Indian women washing clothes at the creek and men with a tomahawk or spear in their hands, adorned with lots of feathers. That image has stayed in some people's minds. Many think we're either visionaries, `noble savages,' squaw drudges or tragic alcoholics. We're very rarely depicted as real people who have greater tenacity in terms of trying to hang on to our culture and values system than most people.
Growth is a painful process. If we?re ever going to collectively begin to grapple with the problems that we have collectively, we?re going to have to move back the veil and deal with each other on a more human level.
I've run into more discrimination as a woman than as an Indian.
We've had daunting problems in many critical areas, but I believe in the old Cherokee injunction to be of a good mind. Today it's called positive thinking.
I came to the position with absolute faith and confidence in our own people and our own ability to solve our own problems.
Most people like to deal with us as though we were in a museum or a history book.
Whoever controls the education of our children controls the future.
I don't think anybody anywhere can talk about the future of their people or of an organization without talking about education. Whoever controls the education of our children controls our future.
My name is Mankiller, and in the old Cherokee Nation, when we lived here in the Southeast, we lived in semi-autonomous villages, and there was someone who watched over the village, who had the title of mankiller. And I'm not sure what you could equate that to, but it was sort of like a soldier or someone who was responsible for the security of the village, and so anyway this one fellow liked the title mankiller so well that he kept it as his name, and that's who we trace our ancestry back to.
Women in leadership roles can help restore balance and wholeness to our communities.
I experienced my own Trail of Tears when I was a young girl. No one pointed a gun at me or at members of my family. No show of force was used. It was not necessary. Nevertheless, the United States government through the Bureau of Indian Affairs, was again trying to settle the 'Indian problem' by removal. I learned through this ordeal about the fear and anguish that occur when you give up your home, your community, and everything you have ever known to move far away to a strange place. I cried for days, not unlike the children who had stumbled down the Trail of Tears so many years before. I wept tears that came from deep within the Cherokee part of me. They were tears from my history, from my tribe's past. They were Cherokee tears.
One of the things my parents taught me, and I'll always be grateful as a gift, is to not ever let anybody else define me; that for me to define myself . . . and I think that helped me a lot in assuming a leadership position.
I had no job, very little money, no car, had no idea what I was going to do, but knew it was time to go home.
Prior to my election, young Cherokee girls would never have thought that they might grow up and become chief.
I learned a long time ago that I can't control the challenges the creator sends my way, but I can control the way I think about them and deal with them.
She likened her job to running a small country, a medium corporation, and being a social worker.
I think the most important issue we have as a people is what we started, and that is to begin to trust our own thinking again and belive in ourselves enough to think that we can articulate our own vision of the future and then work to make sure that that vision becomes a reality.
The happiest people I've ever met, regardless of their profession, their social standing, or their economic status, are people that are fully engaged in the world around them. The most fulfilled people are the ones who get up every morning and stand for something larger than themselves. They are the people who care about others, who will extend a helping hand to someone in need or will speak up about an injustice when they see it.
The meaning of life is to live in balance and harmony with every other living thing in creation. We must all strive to understand the interconnectedness of all living things and accept our individual role in the protection and support of other life forms on earth. We must also understand our own insignificance in the totality of things.