Former Principal Chief
Wilma Mankiller served for two years as the first female elected deputy chief and for 10 years as first female principal chief of the 220,000 member Cherokee Nation. Her areas of expertise include community development, public relations, tribal governance, leadership, writing, and the conceptualization and development of an extensive array of projects ranging from basic infrastructure to programs for children and youth.
Ms. Mankiller’s list of many accomplishments include leading a Cherokee Nation team that obtained a Congressional appropriation to build an $11 million Job Corps Center in Tahlequah as well as the John Ketcher Youth Shelter, a homeless shelter for children and youth of all races. She also led a Cherokee Nation Industries team that successfully obtained a special IRS tax letter ruling, which allowed the firm to continue to operate as a state chartered corporation but remain free of state taxation when the land was placed in trust. This has saved the company millions of dollars in state taxes. She also helped conceptualize, obtain the venture capital, and put on the ground most of the businesses which now comprise Cherokee Nation Enterprises.
Ms. Mankiller founded and served as the first director of the Cherokee Nation Community Development Department which has received a number of national awards for innovative projects utilizing self-help.
Ms. Mankiller has a bachelor’s degree in social services. She has been inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame, the International Women’s Hall of Fame and the Oklahoma Hall of Fame. She has l8 honorary doctorates from universities, including Yale, Dartmouth and Smith Colleges. She was a Chubb Fellow at Yale and a Montgomery Fellow at Dartmouth. She has presented more than l00 lectures at universities and published more than a dozen papers in journals and newspapers.
She is a trustee of the Ford Foundation and the Freedom Forum’s Newseum. She co-edited “A Reader’s Companion to the History of Women in the U.S.,” Houghton-Mifflin, co-authored, “Mankiller: A Chief and Her People,” St. Martin’s Press, and her newest book, “Every Day is a Good Day,” was published by Fulcrum Press in fall 2004. She is one of a handful of Native American recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.