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Wilma Mankiller Quotes

Wilma Mankiller (1945 - 2010)

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Best known as the first woman elected chief of the Cherokee Nation, Wilma Mankiller was an activist for Native American and women's rights.

Selected Wilma Mankiller Quotations

• I want to be remembered as the person who helped us restore faith in ourselves.

• We are a people with many, many social indicators of decline and an awful lot of problems, so in the fifties they decided to mainstream us, to try to take us away from the tribal landbase and the tribal culture, get us into the cities. It was supposed to be a better life.

• Most people like to deal with us as though we were in a museum or a history book.

• There were a significant number of people in this country that were still questioning whether Indians were human.

• Western movies always seemed to show Indian women washing clothes at the creek and men with a tomahawk or spear in their hands, adorned with lots of feathers. That image has stayed in some people's minds. Many think we're either visionaries, `noble savages,' squaw drudges or tragic alcoholics. We're very rarely depicted as real people who have greater tenacity in terms of trying to hang on to our culture and values system than most people.

• We've had daunting problems in many critical areas, but I believe in the old Cherokee injunction to 'be of a good mind.' Today it's called positive thinking.

• Individually and collectively, Cherokee people possess an extraordinary ability to face down adversity and continue moving forward.

• I came to the position with absolute faith and confidence in our own people and our own ability to solve our own problems.

• The secret of our success is that we never, never give up.

• We must trust our own thinking. Trust where we're going. And get the job done.

• There are the extremes on both sides. There are those who have turned their backs on being Cherokee. Then we have a few who refuse to speak much English and think children should only play stickball, not baseball or football. They are suspicious of the non-Indian world, thinking too much assimilation will cause one to stop thinking Cherokee.

• There are a whole lot of historical factors that have played a part in our being where we are today, and I think that to even to begin to understand our contemporary issues and contemporary problems, you have to understand a little bit about that history.

• In Iroquois society, leaders are encouraged to remember seven generations in the past and consider seven generations in the future when making decisions that affect the people.

• I don't think anybody anywhere can talk about the future of their people or of an organization without talking about education. Whoever controls the education of our children controls our future.

• Growth is a painful process.

• Everybody is sitting around saying, 'Well, jeez, we need somebody to solve this problem of bias.' That somebody is us. We all have to try to figure out a better way to get along.

• Prior to my election, young Cherokee girls would never have thought that they might grow up and become chief.

• I've run into more discrimination as a woman than as an Indian.

• It was on Alcatraz...where at long last some Native Americans, including me, truly began to regain our balance.

• One of the things my parents taught me, and I'll always be grateful for the gift, is to not ever let anybody else define me.

• I experienced my own Trail of Tears when I was a young girl. No one pointed a gun at me or at members of my family. No show of force was used. It was not necessary. Nevertheless, the United States government through the Bureau of Indian Affairs, was again trying to settle the 'Indian problem' by removal. I learned through this ordeal about the fear and anguish that occur when you give up your home, your community, and everything you have ever known to move far away to a strange place. I cried for days, not unlike the children who had stumbled down the Trail of Tears so many years before. I wept tears that came from deep within the Cherokee part of me. They were tears from my history, from my tribe's past. They were Cherokee tears.

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About These Quotes

Quote collection assembled by Jone Johnson Lewis. Each quotation page in this collection and the entire collection © Jone Johnson Lewis 1997-2010. This is an informal collection assembled over many years. I regret that I am not be able to provide the original source if it is not listed with the quote.

Citation information:
Jone Johnson Lewis. "Wilma Mankiller Quotes." About Women's History. URL: http://womenshistory.about.com/od/quotes/a/wilma_mankiller.htm . Date accessed: (today). (More on how to cite online sources including this page)

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