timeline

born 1945

When her family moved off her father's ancestral land in Oklahoma through a federal relocation program, Wilma Mankiller never dreamed she would one day return as the chief of her people.

Through her abiding faith in the tenacity of her tribe and eternal optimism in the face of staggering challenges, she rose through the ranks. Wilma became the 1st woman to hold the top seat in the Cherokee government ~ in spite of deep-seeded sexism. Her well-loved administration so improved indigenous lives that citizenship in the Nation tripled under her watch.

Wilma's belief in rebuilding communities through shared + self-directed work toward a common good is a legacy worth carrying on in all nations.

bio bits

her quotes

all quotes by Wilma Mankiller (16)

"We have indigenous solutions to our problems."

Mankiller: A Chief and Her People | 1993

"Women can help turn the world right side up. We bring a more collaborative approach to government. And if we do not participate, then the decisions will be made without us."

Mankiller: A Chief and Her People | 1993

"I'm sure there's some yuppie somewhere still wondering what I did to earn my last name."

Rebuilding the Cherokee Nation | april 1993

"Poor people have a much, much greater capacity for solving their own problems than most people given them credit for."

Rebuilding the Cherokee Nation | april 1993

"I thought that the idea that gender had anything to do with leadership, or that leadership had anything to do with gender was foolish, and I could see no point in even beginning to try to debate that non-issue with anybody."

Rebuilding the Cherokee Nation | april 1993

"I didn't have the faith in myself to speak up, and what caused me to have the faith in myself to speak up was that my desire to do something and contribute was stronger than my own fear."

Rebuilding the Cherokee Nation | april 1993

"One of the most powerful countries in the world as a policy first tried to wipe us off the face of the earth. And then, failing that, instituted a number of policies to make sure that we didn't exist...as a culturally distinct group of people, and yet here we are. Not only do we exist, but we're thriving and we're growing, and we're learning now to trust our own thinking again and dig our way out. So it was that tenacity that I felt we could build on."

Rebuilding the Cherokee Nation | april 1993

"Negative thoughts were treated by Cherokee healers with the same medicines as wounds, headaches, or physical illness. It was believed that unchecked negative thoughts can permeate the being and manifest themselves in negative actions."

Every Day Is a Good Day | 2004

"Protecting the earth is not an intellectual exercise, it's a sacred duty."

Challenges Facing 21st Century Indigenous People | october 2008

"Within many communities, the most respected are not those who've amassed great material wealth or achieved great personal success; the greatest respect is reserved for those who help other people, those who understand that their lives play themselves out within a set of reciprocal relationships."

Challenges Facing 21st Century Indigenous People | october 2008

"Indigenous leaders are now beginning to understand that there’s a direct link between public perception and public policies, and that they’ve got to frame their own issues in the public. If indigenous people don’t frame the issues for themselves, their opponents most certainly will."

Challenges Facing 21st Century Indigenous People | october 2008

"One of the most common misperceptions about indigenous people is that we’re all the same."

Challenges Facing 21st Century Indigenous People | october 2008

"Perhaps in the future, indigenous people who have an abiding and deeply held belief that all living things are related and interdependent, can help policymakers understand how completely irrational it is to destroy the very natural world that sustains them."

Challenges Facing 21st Century Indigenous People | october 2008

"Land and resources can be colonized and have been colonized, but dreams can never be colonized."

Challenges Facing 21st Century Indigenous People | october 2008

"The most fulfilled people are those who get up every morning and stand for something larger than themselves."

Northeastern State University commencement address | may 2009

"Optimistic, hopeful people view barriers and obstacles as problems to be solved and not as the reason to give up or turn back. Positive people never, ever give up."

Northeastern State University commencement address | may 2009
  • Quotabelle profile
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curated with care by Alicia Williamson {september 2014}