Wilma Mankiller, RIP

From the AP story, via the New York Times:

Former Cherokee Nation Chief Wilma Mankiller, one of the nation’s most visible American Indian leaders and one of the few women to lead a major tribe, died Tuesday after suffering from cancer and other health problems. She was 64.
__
Mankiller, whose first taste of federal policy toward Indians came when her family ended up in a housing project after a government relocation project, took Indian issues to the White House and met with three presidents. She earned a reputation for facing conflict head-on. As the first female chief of the Cherokees, from 1985 to 1995, Mankiller led the tribe in tripling its enrollment, doubling employment and building new health centers and children’s programs.
[…]
In 1969, she got what she called ”an enormous wake-up call” and took her first step into Indian activism by participating in the 19-month occupation of Alcatraz Island. Seventy-nine Native Americans took over the site of the former federal prison to protest a policy that terminated the federal government’s recognition of tribal sovereignty and the exclusion of Indians from state laws. The policy was based on the belief that Native Americans would be better off if they assimilated as individuals into mainstream American society.
[…]
As chief of the Tahlequah-based tribe, Mankiller was less of an activist and more of a pragmatist. She was criticized for focusing almost exclusively on social programs, instead of pushing for smoke shops and high-stakes gaming.
__
Mankiller decided not to seek re-election in 1995, and accepted a teaching position at Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H., where she held an honorary degree. Among her other honors was a Presidential Medal of Freedom — the nation’s highest civilian award — presented in 1998.

Seeing this reminded me that I need to replace my copy of her excellent autobiography, Mankiller: A Chief and Her People. And on her website, I found news of an upcoming documentary to which I look forward with great interest…
__

__

“The question I am asked most frequently is why I remain such a positive person, after surviving breast cancer, lymphoma, dialysis, two kidney transplants, and systemic myasthenia gravis. The answer is simple: I am Cherokee, and I am a woman. No one knows better than I that every day is indeed a good day. How can I be anything but positive when I come from a tenacious, resilient people who keep moving forward with an eye toward the future even after enduring unspeakable hardship? How can I not be positive when I have lived longer than I ever dreamed possible and my life plays itself out in a supportive community of extended family and friends? There is much to be thankful for. Though I am an ordinary woman, I have been blessed with many extraordinary experiences. I have been privileged to travel extensively, meet world leaders like Nelson Mandela, represent tribal people in meetings with several United States presidents, and work with visionary tribal leaders and activists.
__
I learned at a fairly early age that I cannot always control the things that are sent my way or the things that other people do, but I can most certainly control how I think about them and react to them. I don’t spend a lot of time dwelling on the negative. I believe that having a good, peaceful mind is the basic premise for a good life. — from “The Way Home”, Every Day is a Good Day by Wilma Mankiller, p. 148

Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Google Plus
Share On Pinterest
Share On Reddit

34 replies
  1. 1
    robertdsc says:

    May the Infinite bless her on the next stage of her journey.

  2. 2

    I learned at a fairly early age that I cannot always control the things that are sent my way or the things that other people do, but I can most certainly control how I think about them and react to them.

    I am only a tiny bit Native American, so I seem to keep having to relearn those lessons. RIP Mrs. Mainkiller

  3. 3
    madmommy says:

    It seems that all of us could benefit from the lifeview that Wilma Mankiller had. Many would have given up facing half the challenges that life threw her way. I wish I could be half as strong in the face of adversity.

    RIP

  4. 4
    Morbo says:

    I did a paper on her in 8th grade. Actually I think we were asked to make a short story based on the person’s life experiences. I don’t remember exactly what it was about, but I do remember she was a pretty cool customer. RIP.

  5. 5
    Trainrunner says:

    I’m sorry, but there’s zero evidence there is any “journey” or “next stage.”

    And it’s infantilizing to assume all others accept these fantasies.

    The dead are dead. Take inspiration from the story and make this life for the living better.

  6. 6
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    I held Wilma Mankiller in the highest esteem for many years. To my own discredit, I pretty much forgot about her more recently. I’m sorry that her obituary — all too early — is what brought her back into my awareness. RIP and white light to her for whatever is the next stage of her journey.

  7. 7
    demo woman says:

    This is where I live and yes they do talk about The Trail of Tears.

    Roswell is located on the northern banks of the Chattahoochee River in an area the Cherokee Indians once called “Enchanted Land.” Originally, the white man was forbidden on this land by Georgia law, but the law was often ignored and many treaties were broken. The discovery of gold in North Georgia brought more and more settlers with powerful weapons. The Cherokee became increasingly aware that they must learn to co-exist, or their way of life would surely perish. They adopted some of the white man’s ways and became shop owners, storekeepers, farmers, and even operated mills, ferries and other businesses…….. By 1821, one of their leaders, Sequoyah, had created the “Talking Leaves,” an alphabet consisting of 85 letters. Within a short time of adopting this alphabet, thousands of Cherokee were able to read and write. They created the first Native American newspaper and also had a centralized government and a constitution……………. For all the tribe’s progress, they could not curtail the white man’s greed for the glittering substance found on their land. Georgia declared the Cherokee Nation illegal and took possession of their land, dividing it into counties and giving the land to white settlers through a land lottery. The Cherokee pursued action through the courts to protect their rights, but President Andrew Jackson ignored a mandate by the Supreme Court and approved removal of the Cherokee. In 1838, the Cherokee people traveled west on a path that was to become known as “The Trail of Tears.”

  8. 8
    Short Bus Bully says:

    Thanks for this post Anne, I really needed to read something like this today.

    =)

  9. 9
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Trainrunner: Just for the hell of it… What evidence do you have that there is no “journey” or “next stage?”

  10. 10

    To Trainrunner:

    Let it go, Hon. Even if you are correct. Let it go and save yourself some conflict.

  11. 11
    Huntski says:

    Man, this 1/8th Cherokee white guy needed this philosophical refresher. Thank you for your life.

  12. 12

    @demo woman:
    Indeed. And Sarah Vowell did a great series of short stories (IIRC) about the Trail of Tears in one of her books. Also available on the excellent This American Life.

    Sarah Vowell and her twin sister Amy re-trace the Trail of Tears. They visit the town in Georgia that was the capital of the Cherokee Nation before the Cherokee were expelled. They enjoy a tourist trap hotel in Chatanooga. They go to Ross’s Landing, the embarkment point for the water route of the Trail of Tears.

  13. 13
    Cain says:

    @demo woman:

    This is where I live and yes they do talk about The Trail of Tears.

    The whole thing makes me sad. Thus is the way of the conquorers and the conquored. This story has been told throughout time.

    Then again, I’m happy that today we at least are respecting their land and their traditions. I know that a lot of people who have indian blood are very proud of that as it gives them a legitimacy. They are after all real americans tied to the original people who settled here.

    cain

  14. 14
    Brick Oven Bill says:

    I have been involved in government housing projects for these Tribes. Their rent is like $20/month for a nice house, but they do not gain ownership. A pretty good deal for the Tribesmen.

    This Wilma Mankiller has done a very good job for her people.

    RIP.

  15. 15
    kdaug says:

    I cannot always control the things that are sent my way or the things that other people do, but I can most certainly control how I think about them and react to them.

    Just. Yes. Full stop.

  16. 16

    When Young Eagles get their feathers plucked

    Or could it be Erik Brown, the California young Republican who became the original fall guy for the Voyeur bondage club scandal, after he unwisely offered to put the tab on his credit card after being promised he would be reimbursed by the RNC?

    There’s a lot of sharks in that tank.

  17. 17
    Yutsano says:

    Baruch Dayan Emet Wilma.

  18. 18
    Polish the Guillotines says:

    Wow. My mother and grandmother knew her and had nothing but the utmost respect for her. This is very sad news.

  19. 19

    @Yutsano:

    Hey bud. Shit looks wall to wall for this weekend between roadtrips, standup shows, baseball games and barhopping.

    Not sure how long you’re in town, but you should still text me nonetheless, who knows when we’re gonna have free time. Don’t mean to disappoint ahead of time, I’m just being precautionary.

  20. 20
    Yutsano says:

    @freelancer (itouch): Fair enough. We’ll just play it all by ear and see what happens. Don’t be afraid to have a good time without me though.

  21. 21
    asiangrrlMN says:

    Thanks for this, Anne Laurie. Her words of wisdom are sorely needed (by me), indeed. A white life for her safe journey to the other side (or to her return to the earth, for those who are offended by the idea of a future journey). She is a better woman than I.

    @Yutsano: Just checking to see if the reply button works.

    ETA: Hot damn. It works, and so does the edit button. Cool beans.

  22. 22
    Blue Raven says:

    @Trainrunner: The Cherokee culture happens to disagree with your opinion, so insisting yours is more appropriate than anyone else’s in relationship to the death of one of its most important modern members is patronizing and disrespectful, not to mention pig-ignorant.

    And Mankiller was indeed a great woman. A credit to humanity. May her work live on and be built upon to the benefit of all.

  23. 23
    asiangrrlMN says:

    @asiangrrlMN: Er, white light. Not life. Should sleep, I guess.

  24. 24

    Thanks for this. I am sad to say that I missed her life entirely. I hate hearing about/learning from the good ones only after they’re gone.

  25. 25
    JD Rhoades says:

    @Trainrunner:

    My son once told me that the reason he became an agnostic rather than an atheist is because atheists were such dicks all the time to people who dared express anything like faith. They could just never resist the temptation to talk down to people, even at the time of someone’s death.

    I thought at the time that he was being unnecessarily harsh, but now I’m beginning to think he may have something there.

    RIP Chief Mankiller.

  26. 26
    WereBear says:

    The next life is more quantum than Newtonian physics. This explains why so few understand it.

    But I think Wilma Mankiller did.

  27. 27
    Cyrus says:

    @JD Rhoades:

    My son once told me that the reason he became an agnostic rather than an atheist is because atheists were such dicks all the time to people who dared express anything like faith. They could just never resist the temptation to talk down to people, even at the time of someone’s death.

    Isn’t this more than a bit… childish? I mean, it’s obvious(1) that not all of us atheists, nor only atheists, do what you’re saying here.

    (1) Yeah, I guess I’m being condescending here, which isn’t necessarily helping my case. But give me a break, I’ve already toned it down quite a bit from my initial reaction to your more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger act.

    Also, forgive an even more completely trivial comment on a relatively serious thread… but “Wilma Mankiller” is an awesome name.

  28. 28

    Had not heard of her, but sounds like quite a lady. RIP

  29. 29
    Adam Collyer says:

    I’m sad to say that I do not know much about this woman, although she seems pretty remarkable. I do know that every word of that last paragraph is the philosophy I try to live by every day. I have to thank her for being able to articulate it so effectively that I now have the words to use.

    Thanks Anne.

  30. 30
    MBunge says:

    “The policy was based on the belief that Native Americans would be better off if they assimilated as individuals into mainstream American society.”

    Well, they’d have been better off if we could have avoided the whole taking-their-land-and-comitting-genocide thing. Failing that, can anyone really defend segregation as a superior policy to assimilation?

    Mike

  31. 31
    PurpleGirl says:

    Sad news. May Chief Mankiller rest in peace with her ancestors. May her name be remembered forever and give life to her spirit.

  32. 32
    Very Reverend Crimson Fire of Compassion says:

    I had the privilege of meeting Chief Mankiller. The world is smaller without her in it, but the sky is brighter because she has gone to shine in it. Do na da, my older sister.

  33. 33
    Very Reverend Crimson Fire of Compassion says:

    @Cain:

    Then again, I’m happy that today we at least are respecting their land and their traditions.

    Are you kidding me with this shit? “We’re” (and who’s we, white man?, as Tonto is reported to have asked) respecting Native land and traditions now? How is that, exactly? By continuing to dump toxic waste on reservations at more than ten times the rate stored anywhere else in the country? By treating them like hostages/stupid children? By denying them the necessary resources to develop their own economies or infrastructure, then insisting that they starve/die of neglect/abuse/indifference on their own because they’re just sovereign enough to be exempt from the same considerations extended as civil rights to every other American citizen? Federal agents still try to disrupt the sundance every year. Leonard Peltier’s still in prison. The black hills still have not been returned to the Lakota. For God’s sake, it only became legal to practice Native religion in this country in 1975! Yeah, respect. Lots of that. Isn’t it great how we got past racism and class structure, too?
    I don’t mean to be rude to you, or to be caustic on this thread, but the idea that Native Cultures and land rights are now respected is utter bullshit.

  34. 34
    JG says:

    I had the good fortune to work with her on some projects a few years back for about 6 weeks. What a dynamic woman. Her quiet grace, confidence, and heart just drew people to her. Her love for her people was evident in all that she did. Condolences to Charlie and their daughters. Chief Mankiller will live on in the hearts of many.

Comments are closed.