Chief of the Cherokee Nation, a 220,000 member Native American tribe based in Tahlequah, Oklahoma.
Her name "Mankiller" is a Cherokee military term for a village protector but she is fond of telling outsiders that her name was given to her because of her reputation.
Mankiller grew up poor in Oklahoma. Her father later took a job with the [Bureau of Indian Affairs[ (BIA) program that moved the family to San Francisco where they lived in a poor African American community. Mankiller says that this is where she learned that "...that poor people have a much, much greater capacity for solving their own problems than most people give them credit for."
When Wilma became Chief, she made education and health care top tribal priorities. As a fundraiser, she she raised millions of dollars to build school infrastructure, a health clinic and a job training center for Cherokee Indians. She also made efforts to reunite the North Carolina Eastern Cherokees with the larger Western division.
In 1993 she co-wrote a biography of herself titled, "Mankiller: A Chief and Her People."
Illness derailed her political career. She was diagnosed with lymphoma and breast cancer and underwent two kidney transplants.
She continues to travel and lecture around the country. In 1995 she was honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Bill Clinton.
Source: Salon.com, "Mankiller: A Chief and Her People"