Dr. Bob’s Reads: The Legacy of Wilma Mankiller

Principal Chief Wilma Mankiller was recently named by Time Magazine as one of the 100 Most Influential Women.

“In 1985, Wilma Mankiller paved the way for female leadership in America when she became the first woman to be Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation, the largest tribe in the U.S., a role she held for a decade, ushering in an era of prosperity, cultural revitalization and self-governance for Cherokee people.”

Meeting Principal Chief Wilma Mankiller and hearing her speak are some of my favorite and most inspirational professional experiences. From my perspective, she was a humble, no-nonsense servant leader who dedicated her life to the betterment of her tribe – the Cherokee Nation.

Principal Chief Mankiller shared and lived the Cherokee concept of “Gadugi” which inspired people to work as a “collective community toward a common goal.” When she began working for the Cherokee Nation, one of her first jobs was to bring water to a small Oklahoma town (the Bell Water Project). She successfully organized an entire community to complete the ambitious task themselves as a self-help project. She identified the money for the materials and then worked alongside them. Principal Chief Mankiller felt the success of the project was symbolic of the revitalization of the entire Cherokee Nation.

Mankiller died in 2010, leaving a legacy of cultural pride and success. “I want to be remembered as the person who helped us restore faith in ourselves,” she once said. Indeed, her policies on health care, education and self-governance for the Cherokee Nation provided a model that would be followed by other tribal nations, and the U.S.”

Thank you Time Magazine for recognizing Principal Chief Wilma Mankiller – one of the most courageous and transformational leaders I have ever met and try to model.

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