the once dirt-poor Oklahoma farm girl who grew up to become an activist for American Indian causes and women’s rights, an author and the first woman to hold the Cherokee Nation’s highest office, died Tuesday. She was 64.
President Barack Obama lauded Mankiller’s legacy. “As the Cherokee Nation’s first female chief, she transformed the nation-to-nation relationship between the Cherokee Nation and the federal government, and served as an inspiration to women in Indian Country and across America,” Obama said. “A recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, she was recognized for her vision and commitment to a brighter future for all Americans. ”
In the 1960s, married by then with two children, she took an increasing interest in Indian affairs. When a group of tribal activists took over Alcatraz Island in 1969, occupying it for more than a year to protest U.S. government treatment of Indians, Mankiller visited them and raised money for the effort. … Mankiller used her fame and position to speak out on cultural issues, something she never shied from. She once said that white culture was to blame for the sexism of Cherokees, who were traditionally more matriarchal, and that Thomas Jefferson deserved as much blame for the Trail of Tears as the more often villified Andrew Jackson. When she slammed country artist Tim McGraw’s hit song “Indian Outlaw” as racially offensive, many state radio stations stopped playing it at her request.
She will be greatly missed.