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A National Leader Remembered

Wilma Pearl Mankiller
(1945 - 2010)

Wilma Mankiller, the influential Cherokee leader and human rights activist, passed away on April 6, 2010. She was the first woman Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation and a well known national leader. We were honored that she gave the graduation speech at our first Assembly in Oklahoma in 1991, introduced by her friend and mentor, RDLN Leader Julie Moss. Wilma's husband Charlie Soap was also with us.

Here is a link to the Cherokee Nation, which includes tributes and photos: Cherokee Nation Website.  The Cherokee Nation sponsored both Julie Moss (Group 3) and Evelyn Conley (Group 8) in the RDLN program.

From University of California website:

Wilma Mankiller [is} the first female principal chief of the Cherokee Nation and 1998 recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. During her many years serving the Cherokee Nation, including her service as its first freely elected chief (1987-1995), Mankiller received wide acclaim for bringing tremendous advances to the Cherokees, including significantly improving education and health care, overseeing the construction of new schools, creating job-training centers, and establishing health clinics. In addition to receiving the Presidential Medal Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor, Mankiller has been inducted to the National Women's Hall of Fame, the International Women's Hall of Fame and the Oklahoma Hall of Fame. A longtime advocate for women, she is the co-author of The Reader's Companion to U.S. Women's History, and author of the bestselling autobiography "Mankiller: A Chief and Her People." 
She served on the boards of the Ford Foundation and the Ms. Foundation, among others.

Wilma had a background in community development and considered joining the RDLN program before becoming chief. Please click here to print out and read the wonderful speech she gave at the RDLN graduation. As she reminded us, "We're the people that are going to solve the problems....There ain't no 'they.' There is only us."