Published On: Wed, Mar 3rd, 2010
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Former Chief Mankiller diagnosed with Cancer

Former Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Wilma Mankiller diagnosed with stage IV pancreatic cancer

Source: Cherokee Nation

Former Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Wilma Mankiller speaks during the 2009 Red Clay Celebration in Tennessee. (Photo by Scott McKie B.P./One Feather)

Charlie Soap regrets to announce his wife Wilma Mankiller has been diagnosed with Stage IV Metastatic Pancreatic Cancer.  Mankiller is an author, lecturer and former Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation. 

She served 12 years in elected office at the Cherokee Nation, the first two as Deputy Principal Chief followed by 10 years as Principal Chief.  Mankiller  retired from public office in 1995.  Among her many honors, she has been awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Clinton.  Soap requests that the public respect the family’s privacy during this time.

In a brief statement, Mankiller said, “I decided to issue this statement because I want my family and friends to know that I am mentally and spiritually prepared for this journey; a journey that all human beings will take at one time or another.  I learned a long time ago that I can’t control the challenges the Creator sends my way but I can control the way I think about them and deal with them.  On balance, I have been blessed with an extraordinarily rich and wonderful life, filled with incredible experiences.   And I am grateful to have a support team composed of loving family and friends.  I will be spending my time with my family and close friends and engaging in activities I enjoy.  It’s been my privilege to meet and be touched by thousands of people in my life and I regret not being able to deliver this message personally to so many of you.  If anyone wants to send a message to me, it is best to email me at wilmapmankiller@yahoo.com.”  

Chad Smith, Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation, commented, “Wilma is a mentor and friend.  It’s hard to express how much she means to me personally and the Cherokee people as a Nation.  I’ve got one story that helps sum up what kind of person she is.  The week after she received the Presidential Medal of Honor she was back home on the front porch of her family’s church.  It was Memorial Day and there were decorations at the cemetery and it struck me how she could be just as comfortable meeting with the President as she was with her own people, honoring her ancestors.  It was an image of someone who was truly humble, and you don’t meet too many people like that.” 

 He went on to say, “She is a true patriot of the Cherokee Nation, and it’s my privilege to follow in her footsteps as Chief.  Any successes we have had in the past ten years since I took office were built upon the foundation she and Ross Swimmer helped lay.  In the coming days, we will do whatever we can to assist her and her family, while allowing them the dignity and privacy they deserve.”

Among her many honors are:

·        Presidential Medal of Freedom

·        Montgomery Fellowship, Dartmouth College

·        The Chubb Fellowship, Timothy Dwight College, Yale University

·        San Francisco State University, Hall of Fame

·        San Francisco State Alumna of the Year (1988)

·        International Women of Distinction Award, Alpha Delta Kappa

·        Oklahoma Hall of Fame

·        Oklahoma Women’s Hall of Fame

·        National Women’s Hall of Fame

·        International Women’s Forum Hall of Fame

·        Minority Business Hall of Fame

·        Women of the Year, Oklahoma Federation of Indian Women

·        Woman of the Year, Ms. Magazine

·        Celebration of Heroes, Newsweek Cover Story

·        ABC Person of the Week, ABC Nightly News

·        National Racial Justice Award

·        Henry G. Bennett Distinguished Service Award, Oklahoma State University

·        John W. Gardner Leadership Award, Independent Sector

·        United States Public Health Service Leadership Award

·        Humanitarian Award, National Conference of Christians and Jews

·        The Dorothy Height Lifetime Achievement Award

·        The Elizabeth Blackwell Award

·        50 Most Influential People of the Century, in Oklahoma

·        50 Most Important People in the U.S., Who’s Who

·        Hero, Glamour Magazine, 2006

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