Wilma Mankiller, former Cherokee Nation chief, passes on
Wilma Mankiller, the first woman to lead the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, died this morning. She was 64.

Mankiller was born in 1945 at the Hastings Indian Hospital in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. Her family moved to California at a time when the federal government urged American Indians to move to urban areas.

Mankiller returned to the Cherokee Nation in 1977 and began a career in tribal service. She was elected deputy chief in 1983 and took over the job of chief in 1985 when Ross Swimmer went to work for the Reagan administration.

Mankiller won election as principal chief in 1987 and she served in the position for 10 years. She led the Cherokees into a new era of self-determination.

"Our personal and national hearts are heavy with sorrow and sadness with the passing this morning of Wilma Mankiller," said Chief Chad Smith in a press release. "We feel overwhelmed and lost when we realize she has left us but we should reflect on what legacy she leaves us. We are better people and a stronger tribal nation because her example of Cherokee leadership, statesmanship, humility, grace, determination and decisiveness."

Mankiller was diagnosed with stage IV metastatic pancreatic cancer last month.

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Press Release: Wilma Mankiller, former Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation, passes (Cherokee Nation 4/6)

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