Date of this Version
2010 Pro>Active Publications
Wilma Mankiller was a first-the first woman Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, the second-largest U.S. tribe. Her death on April 6, 2010 focused attention on her accomplishments as a legendary leader.
Wilma Pearl Mankiller, born November 18, 1945, in Tahlequah was sixth of eleven children. In 1956 her family moved to San Francisco as part of a Bureau of Indian Affairs relocation effort that promised jobs in the city. In 1963 she married Hugo Olaya, an Ecuadorean businessman, and had daughters Gina and Felicia. The takeover of Alcatraz by Indian demonstrators was a life-changing event for Wilma. During the 19-month occupation, she visited the demonstrators and helped raise money for the cause. She began taking courses at Skyline College and San Francisco State University while working as a coordinator of Indian programs for the Oakland public schools. When her marriage ended in divorce, she returned to live on her grandfather's land in Oklahoma in 1977 with her daughters. She became involved in volunteer work related to tribal affairs and leading health and Head Start initiatives and then became economic stimulus coordinator for the Cherokee Nation. She completed a bachelor's degree at Flaming Rainbow University and took graduate courses at the University of Arkansas in community planning.