It is with great sadness that we say goodbye to Wilma Mankiller, the first female Chief of Cherokee Nation. Wilma passed away on Tuesday, April 6, 2010. She was 64.
We honor Wilma Mankiller as a friend of family farmers and Farm Aid. We had the pleasure of having Wilma speak at our 1992, Farm Aid V concert at Texas Stadium. She understood the issues that American family farmers face, being forced off of her own farm in Oklahoma in the 1950s. Her legacy of leadership, determination, and humility will last in our hearts, minds, and our work.
Wilma took part in the 19-month occupation of Alcatraz Island in 1969 in protest of a United States policy which terminated the federal government’s recognition of tribal sovereignty, sparking her career as an activist for Indian affairs. She was elected Chief of Cherokee Nation in 1985. During her term she took Indian issues directly to the White House, tripled tribe enrollment, doubled the tribe employment rate, implemented a number of social programs for health care and children, and honored Cherokee values and tradition. For her work she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1998.
Photo courtesy of flickr user Professor Pigg under a Creative Commons license.