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April 7, 2010

Oregon Law Mourns Loss of Cherokee Nation Leader Wilma Mankiller

Oregon Law is mourning the loss Wilma Mankiller, a famous Cherokee Nation activist and 2005-6 Wayne Morse Chair of Law and Politics. She passed away on Tuesday, April 6, of pancreatic cancer.Wilma Mankiller

Chief Mankiller was an author, activist, and former principal chief of the Cherokee Nation. In 1983, she was elected the first female deputy chief of the Cherokee Nation and president of the tribal council. In 1987, Mankiller was elected principal chief of the Cherokees, making her the first woman in modern history to hold such a position. She was reelected four years later by an overwhelming majority.

During Mankiller’s tenure, she met with Presidents Reagan, Bush, and Clinton to present critical tribal issues. She and the Navajo Nation president, Peterson Zah, co-chaired a national conference between tribal leaders and cabinet members, which helped facilitate the establishment of an Office of Tribal Justice within the U.S. Department of Justice. Mankiller’s tenure was also marked by a great deal of new development, including several new free-standing health clinics, an $11 million Jobs Corps Center, and greatly expanded services for children and youth. She led the team that developed the core businesses that comprise Cherokee Nation Enterprises. Mankiller was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1998 and holds honorary doctorate degrees from Yale University, Dartmouth College, Smith College, and other institutions. She has written and co-authored several works, including Every Day is a Good Day, Mankiller: A Chief and Her People, and A Reader’s Companion to the History of Women in the U.S. She has also contributed to other publications, including an essay for Native Universe, the inaugural publication of the National Museum of the American Indian.

During her year as Wayne Morse Chair, Mankiller delivered a public lecture, participated in several symposia, and taught an ethnic studies course on Native American Life, Law, and Leadership in the Modern Era with Rennard Strickland, distinguished professor emeritus of law.

For more information, visit www.wilmamankiller.com.

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