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Barbie Inspiring Women Principal Chief Wilma Mankiller Doll
Wilma Mankiller, the first woman to lead the Cherokee Nation, is joining the lineup of iconic Barbie dolls. Photo courtesy Mattel
Cherokee leader Wilma Mankiller joins ‘Inspiring Women’ lineup of Barbie dolls
Tuesday, November 7, 2023

Wilma Mankiller, who was the first woman to lead the Cherokee Nation, is once again making history, this time on toy shelves across the country.

Mankiller, who served as principal chief of her tribe from 1985 to 1995, is joining the “Inspiring Women” collection of Barbie dolls. She is depicted carrying a basket and wearing a ribbon dress, as seen in a 2005 photograph of her.

“Wilma Mankiller was the first-ever female Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation and a fierce advocate for Native American, women’s, and children’s rights,” the description for the Barbie doll reads. “In 1998, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Now, she is the newest doll in the Barbie Inspiring Women series.”

Mankiller passed away in 2010 at the age of 64. Her surviving husband, Charlie Soap, praised the Mattel toy and entertainment company for honoring his late wife’s legacy. He took the 2005 photo of Mankiller.

“I am deeply honored Mattel is recognizing Wilma with the Wilma Mankiller doll,” Soap, also Cherokee, said in a news release distributed by Mattel. “Wilma inspired me and many others to make the world a better place. As her community development partner for over 30 years, we shared a passion for empowering Indian communities and educating future generations. The Wilma Mankiller Barbie doll is an incredible tribute to Wilma that will share her legacy with even more people.”

Chuck Hoskin Jr., the current chief of the Cherokee Nation, welcomed the debut of the Barbie doll as well. He called Mankiller an inspiration to women and girls, including his own daughter.

“When Native girls see it, they can achieve it, and Wilma Mankiller has shown countless young women to be fearless and speak up for Indigenous and human rights,” Hoskin said in a statement.

“She not only served in a role dominated by men during a time that tribal nations were suppressed, but she led,” said Hoskin. “Wilma Mankiller is a champion for the Cherokee Nation, for Indian Country and even my own daughter. She truly exemplifies leadership, culture and equality and we applaud Mattel for commemorating her in the Barbie Inspiring Women Series.”

But a family member expressed surprised at the announcement of the Barbie product. Felicia Olaya, who is Mankiller’s daughter, said she found out about the doll on Thursday morning — at the same time the public was told.

“Once again, I find out about these types of happenings on social media. Never informed. Never included,” Oyala, whose father is Hector Hugo Olaya de Bardi, Mankiller’s first husband, said in a post on her social media.

Felicia Oyala
“Once again, I find out about these types of happenings on social media. Never informed. Never included,” Felicia Oyala, daughter of Wilma Mankiller, wrote in a post on social media on November 7, 2023.

Oyala added the Barbie project isn’t the first time she’s been left out either. On another social media post, she said her and her sister, Gina, were left out of discussions for the historic Wilma Mankiller quarter, which was released last year.

“No communication until we hear 2nd hand or see it on social media,” Oyala said on a social media account controlled by Kristina Kiehl, who along with Soap served as a producer of the Mankiller documentary. Kiehl and Soap also worked together on The Cherokee Word for Water , a film based on Mankiller’s and Soap’s work on the Cherokee Nation.

“My problem is that you and Charlie have always left Gina and I out of things happening with OUR MOMMA”S legacy,” Oyala said in the comment directed to Kiehl, who is quoted in the Mattel news release.

Kiehl’s account further pointed out that “photos of [Mankiller’s] daughters Gina and Felicia” are featured on the packaging on the Barbie doll. Oyala indicated she was unaware of this personal detail as well.

“Once again the family is left out of a great thing. And now I get a call to take a photo with the doll I had no part of. Where’s your understanding,” Oyala wrote.

Oyala shared similar sentiments in a comment on the Cherokee Nation’s official social media after the tribe shared Chief Hoskin’s statement about the Mankiller doll. She was then offered an apology by someone controlling the account.

“Felicia Olaya, we are so sorry to hear this,” the response from “TheCherokeeNation” stated. “We love Wilma, everything she stood for and the impact she’s continuing to have on our nation. The Wilma Mankiller Foundation and Mattel collaborated on this project together.”

The Wilma Mankiller Foundation is a project of the non-profit organization Tulsa Community Foundation, according to The fund’s projects include The Cherokee Word for Water, the film created by Kiehl and Soap.

In the Cherokee Nation’s social media post, Chief Hoskin said a “special event to celebrate the release of this Barbie” will be taking place in Tahlequah, the tribal capital. Kiehl’s account said the event was going to be held December 5.

The Barbie Inspiring Women Principal Chief Wilma Mankiller Doll is available for pre-order. The cost is $35 on on The doll can also be purchased at other retail locations, according to the site.