Tuesday, March 2, 2010

A call for prayers for Chief Wilma Mankiller: as she makes her way to the Spirit World

[photograph of Cherokee Chief Wilma Mankiller is from here]

This sad news was found on here on Censored News. Thank you, Brenda.

Chief Wilma Mankiller in failing health

By Carter Camp

My Relations,
I just received this sad news about our friend and comrade in the movement, Chief Wilma Mankiller. It seems she is reaching the end of her journey now and our prayers are needed for her safe and easy passage to the spirit world. Wilma has always been so strong it's hard to believe she's leaving us but I know she's at home trying to cheer everyone up and being strong for her family.

I met her back in the early 70's in the Bay area when Dennis Banks and I helped her start an alternative school. We set up a drum in her back yard and sang warrior songs far into the night even though the neighbors thought they were going to be attacked and scalped. Soon she returned home to her people and did many great things for them. In their appreciation and in recognition of her work they elected her the first woman Chief of the Cherokee Nation in the modern era.

Although she was known internationally and won many awards Wilma remained the same homegirl we always knew, much more at home among her folks than speaking at the United Nations or to the American Congress although she was magnificent there too. She liked powwow dances and Indian doings all her life, she loved her family and her Cherokee people above all else and they are all better off because she was their Chief. We are all better off because we knew her and can see the mark she left on this world for Indian women and for us all. Many words will be spoken for Wilma in the coming days, all of them deserved, I can only add my few in tribute to my friend, my sister, Chief Wilma Mankiller.

So tonight my relations we must take out our sacred items and use our sacred herbs on behalf of this great soul and the family she leaves behind. In the morning we will see our Grandfather rise in the East and we'll ask him to watch out for our warrior friend as she continues her journey in this life and the next.

Carter Camp,
Ponca Nation

Here is some more information about this great national leader. [source: here]

Wilma Mankiller former Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation

Wilma Mankiller, former Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, lives on the land which was allotted to her paternal grandfather, John Mankiller, just after Oklahoma became a state in 1907.

Surrounded by the Cherokee Hills and the Cookson Hills, she lives in a historically rich area where a person's worth is not determined by the size of their bank account or portfolio. Her family name "Mankiller" as far as they can determine, is an old military title that was given to the person in charge of protecting the village. As the leader of the Cherokee people she represented the second largest tribe in the United States, the largest being the Dine (Navajo) Tribe. Mankiller was the first female in modern history to lead a major Native American tribe. With an enrolled population of over 140,000, and an annual budget of more than $75 million, and more than 1,200 employees spread over 7,000 square miles, her task may have been equalled to that of a chief executive officer of a major corporation.

Initially, Wilma's candidacy was opposed by those not wishing to be led by a woman. Her tires were slashed and there were death threats during her campaign. But now as Wilma shares her home with her husband, Charlie Soap, and Winterhawk, his son from a previous marriage, things are very different. She has won the respect of the Cherokee Nation, and made an impact on the culture as she has focused on her mission - to bring self-sufficiency to her people.

"Prior to my election, " says Mankiller, "young Cherokee girls would never have thought that they might grow up and become chief." Mankiller had been asked by Ross Swimmer, then President of a small bank, who assumed leadership of the Cherokee Nation in 1975. He convinced Mankiller to run as his deputy chief. They won. In 1985, Swimmer resigned as chief to head the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and Cherokee law mandated that the deputy chief assume the duties of the former chief.

In the historic tribal elections of 1987, Mankiller won the post out-right and brought unprecedented attention to the tribe as a result. "We are a revitalized tribe," said Mankiller,"After every major upheaval, we have been able to gather together as a people and rebuild a community and a government. Individually and collectively, Cherokee people possess an extraordinary ability to face down adversity and continue moving forward. We are able to do that because our culture, though certainly diminished, has sustained us since time immemorial. This Cherokee culture is a well-kept secret."

Mankiller attibutes her understanding of her peoples history partially to her own families forced removal, as part of the government's Indian relocation policy, to California when she was a young girl . Her concern for Native American issues was ignited in 1969 when a group of university students occupied Alcatraz Island in order to attract attention to the issues affecting their tribes. Shortly afterwards, she began working in preschool and adult education programs in the Pit River Tribe of California.

In 1974, she divorced her husband after eleven years of marriage when their views of her role continued to widen. She moved back to her ancestral lands outside of Tahlequah, and immediately began helping her people by procuring grants enabling them to launch critical rural programs. In 1979 she enrolled in the nearby University of Arkansas, and upon returning home from class was almost killed in a head-on collision in which one of her best friends who had been driving the other car, was killed. After barely avoiding the amputation of her right leg, she endured another seventeen operations. Mankiller says that it was during the long process that she really began reevaluating her life and it proved to be a time of deep spiritual awakening.

Then in 1980, just a year after the accident, she was diagnosed with myasthenia gravis, a chronic neuromuscular disease that causes varying degrees of weakness in the voluntary muscles of the body. She maintains that it was the realization of how precious life is that spurred her to begin projects for her people, such as the Bell project where members of the community revitalized a whole community themselves.

It was the success of the Bell project that thrust Mankiller into national recognition as an expert in community development. The election to deputy chief did not come until two years later. In 1986, Wilma married long time friend and former director of tribal development, Charlie Soap. Mankiller's love of family and community became a source of strength when again a life threatening illness struck. Recurring kidney problems forced Mankiller to have a kidney transplant, her brother Don Mankiller served as the donor. During her convalescence, she had many long talks with her family, and it was decided that she would run again for Chief in order to complete the many community projects she had begun.

She has shown in her typically exuberant way that not only can Native Americans learn a lot from the whites, but that whites can learn from native people. Understanding the interconnectedness of all things, many whites are beginning to understand the value of native wisdom, culture and spirituality. Spirituality is then key to the public and private life of Wilma Mankiller who has indeed become known not only for her community leadership but also for her spiritual presence. A woman rabbi who is the head of a large synagogue in New York commented that Mankiller was a significant spiritual force in the nation.

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