Mankiller was first woman to lead Cherokee Nation, received Presidential Medal of Freedom

By Sophia Hysaw | Opinion Editor

   Sophia Hysaw

Wilma Mankiller was a Native American woman who served as an activist, community developer, social worker, and the first woman to ever be Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation. Wilma, inspired by the women’s movement, began the vigorous work of empowering the local Native American tribes and communities. She went on to found the Community Development Department for the Cherokee Nation; was the first woman to be elected chief of a major American Indian tribe; and worked with the Environmental Protection Agency, as well as the federal government to pilot a self-government agreement for the Cherokee Nation. In 1993, Wilma Mankiller was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame and in 1998 she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the nation, from President Bill Clinton.