Wilma Mankiller

Chief of the Cherokee Nation
Born Nov 18, 1945

Wilma Pearl Mankiller was the first female Chief of the Cherokee Nation. She served as principal chief for ten years from 1985 to 1995.

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Learn about the memorable moments in the evolution of Wilma Mankiller.


1945 Birth Born on November 18, 1945.


1963 17 Years Old In 1963, at the age of 17, Mankiller married Hector Hugo Olaya de Bardi, an Ecuadorian college student. … Read More


1969 23 Years Old In the late 1960s, Mankiller joined the activist movement and participated in the Occupation of Alcatraz Island in 1969. … Read More


1977 31 Years Old After divorcing Hugo Olaya in 1977, Mankiller moved back to Oklahoma with her two young daughters, in hopes of helping her people. … Read More
1983 37 Years Old By 1983, Mankiller was elected deputy chief of the Cherokee Nation, alongside Ross Swimmer, who was serving his third consecutive term as principal chief. In 1985, Chief Swimmer resigned when appointed as assistant secretary of the US Bureau of Indian Affairs. … Read More


1986 40 Years Old …  After many years working together on Cherokee community development projects, Mankiller married her longtime friend, Charlie Lee Soap, a full-blood Cherokee traditionalist and fluent Cherokee speaker, in 1986. … Read More
1987 41 Years Old 1 More Event
She was elected in her own campaign in 1987, and re-elected again in 1991 in a landslide victory, collecting 83% of the vote. In 1995, Mankiller chose not to run again for chief, largely due to health problems. … Read More
1991 45 Years Old After her term as chief, she became a guest professor at Dartmouth College, where, in 1991, she also received an honorary degree. In 1998, Bill Clinton awarded Mankiller the Medal of Freedom. … Read More
1994 48 Years Old In 1994, Mankiller and the singer Patsy Cline were among the inductees into the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame in Fort Worth, Texas. … Read More


2004 58 Years Old In 2004, Mankiller co-authored Every Day Is a Good Day: Reflections by Contemporary Indigenous Women. … Read More


2010 64 Years Old 1 More Event
In March 2010 she was reported to be terminally ill with pancreatic cancer.
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