Delegates laud inclusion of late Cherokee Nation leader Wilma Mankiller on new quarter

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON — Members of the Navajo Nation Council commend the inclusion of Wilma Mankiller, the first woman to lead the Cherokee Nation, on a new series of quarters.

The U.S. Mint selected the late tribal leader, who served as principal chief from 1985 to 1995, to appear on the third coin in the American Women Quarters Program.

Mankiller along with New Mexico suffragist leader Nina Otero-Warren, poet and writer Maya Angelou, astronaut Sally Ride and Chinese American film star Anna May Wong complete the series.

The women are among the first to appear on money that will circulate in the country. The mint released the first quarter last week, which features Angelou.

More:Heartbeat Music Project lands $500k grant to continue music education program on Navajo Nation

Wilma Mankiller, the first woman to lead the Cherokee Nation, will be honored on a quarter that the U.S. Mint will release later this year.

"Beginning in 2022 and continuing through 2025, the mint will issue five quarters in each of these years," states the Oct. 6, 2021 news release that revealed the designs. "The ethnically, racially and geographically diverse group of individuals honored through this program reflects a wide range of accomplishments and fields, including suffrage, civil rights, abolition, government, humanities, science, space and the arts."

Mankiller was the first woman elected principal chief of the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma and was an activist for the rights of Native Americans and women.

Her leadership revitalized the tribal government and improved education, health care and housing – actions that several publications noted when the coin designs were announced.

Mankiller died from pancreatic cancer on April 6, 2010 at age 64.

More:Navajo Transitional Energy Company CEO to retire at end of January

Women leaders on the Navajo Nation Council applauded the inclusion of Mankiller on the heels of the release of the Angelou quarter.

Delegate Eugenia Charles-Newton, who represents Shiprock Chapter, said in a statement that Mankiller founded the Community Development Department for the Cherokee Nation, which resulted in clean water systems and rehabilitation of houses.

"The Navajo Nation and our Diné women recognize her forward thinking and candid leadership that held the federal government accountable," Charles-Newton said. "Chief Wilma Mankiller's image will forever be etched into history as a woman who transformed leadership, who inspired Native women and young girls that made it possible to dream big."

Delegates Amber Kanazbah Crotty and Charlaine Tso noted that Mankiller received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Bill Clinton in 1998.

More:Navajo Nation releasing checks to eligible older tribal members

Tso, who represents the chapters of Aneth, Mexican Water, Red Mesa, Teec Nos Pos and Tólikan, added that Mankiller was a longtime champion for Indigenous women rights and advocated for tribal self-determination.

"Our Navajo women honor her hard work uplifting the voices of our young Indigenous girls around the country. May this quarter honor her memory for years to come," Tso said.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at nsmith@daily-times.com.

Support local journalism with a digital subscription to The Daily Times.