Wilma Mankiller’s daughter Felicia Olaya, Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr.
and Wilma’s husband Charlie Soap.
Thursday, December 7, 2023 - The Cherokee Nation and family and friends of the late Wilma Mankiller gathered this week to celebrate the Wilma Mankiller Barbie, part of Barbie’s “Inspiring Women” series, in the capital of the Cherokee Nation.
The celebration was a tribute to the legacy of Wilma Mankiller and her impact on the tribe and Indian Country, both as a humanitarian and an advocate for women’s rights.
Mankiller served as the first female Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation from 1985 to 1995.
During the celebration event, Cherokee Nation leaders, as well as the family, friends, mentees and co-workers of Chief Mankiller, shared numerous stories about her character and leadership she embodied throughout her life.
“The addition of the Wilma Mankiller Barbie to the Inspiring Women series is not only a fitting tribute to an incredible woman, but it also serves as an inspiration and a reminder of the limitless potential there is for every Indigenous girl that has the courage to dream big,” Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. said.
Saylor Street, 7, a Cherokee Nation citizen, from Paris Arkansas attended the Wilma Mankiller Barbie celebration and brought her Wilma Mankiller Barbie in tow.
Chief Mankiller was a fierce advocate for social justice who dedicated herself to empowering Indigenous communities. She worked hard to make the world brighter for future generations and earned the prestigious Presidential Medal of Freedom award in 1998 for her efforts.
“I am very honored and pleased that in several ways my mother’s legacy is still living on,” said Felicia Olaya, Wilma’s eldest daughter. “I think that she would be very honored, and I think that her main purpose is that she wanted to leave a legacy that helped people restore faith in themselves. I just have such a warm feeling. I have two granddaughters myself, and the thought of watching them play with their great-grandmother’s Barbie just touches my heart.”
As Principal Chief, Wilma revitalized the Cherokee Nation’s tribal government and advocated relentlessly for improved health care and housing services. Under her leadership, family home ownership grew, safe access to water was more prevalent, economic development opportunities expanded, and educational achievement rose across the Cherokee Nation Reservation.
Chief Mankiller, during her time leading the tribe, saw citizen enrollment double from 68,000 to 170,000. Her tenure was marked by her resounding commitment to Cherokee self-determination and the cultural value of Gadugi – the community working together for the greater good.
“Wilma was an extraordinary person who loved everybody and cared about everybody. She was all of what could be looked for in a person as a good leader,” said Charlie Soap, Wilma’s husband. “The happiness and the well-being of the children was what Wilma and I focused on when she was still with us. So I’m happy that her legacy will be shared even more through this incredible tribute that is the Wilma Mankiller Barbie doll.”
More than 350 Cherokee citizens and members of the community attended the celebration and received a cut out of the Wilma Mankiller Barbie dolls. To honor Wilma Mankiller’s tireless dedication to Native American and women’s rights, the Cherokee Nation contributed $25,000 to The American Indian Resource Center – an organization that provides cultural and educational opportunities to nurture the growth of Indigenous communities and led by one of Wilma’s friends.
KXMX Staff Writer
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