Customer Reviews: Mankiller: A Chief and Her People
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on November 8, 2000
I spent a whole weekend not just reading but absorbing this work of Wilma Mainkiller.On Sunday I could only describe feeling wonderfully enriched by the experience both personally, as a Euro- and Native American person and also as an American. All of us have been denied major parts of our comon American history with the repression of Native American History. The mid section of the book is purely historical, and so much of it was news to me! (I thought that I knew Native history and yet it would prove that I had alot to learn that weekend.) The interection of Cherokee and African American history is fascinating ! It is a reoccuring theme. What history books cover that? The focus is usually Euro-American to Native American, or Euro-American to African-American. At a personal level the experience was tremendous. Putting personal information together with her history, I learned that I have a matrilineal clan affliation (bird). I feel that as the result of her work I myself ,my family, and descendents have connected with something that would have otherwise been lost. Generations ago, two orphaned Cherokee boys were adopted by a white family in Georgia. One later went "white' the other "red". This is not just my personal background. This is a metaphor for so much of American history. Truely, Cherokee culture is the best kept secret in America today, as the author writes. It is our common cultural heritage, like jazz, like democracy. I relish reading other works by this author ! Doris Hale
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VINE VOICEon August 13, 2007
I read this one in four days ~~ it helped that we had some downtime while camping in a small state park. It is a wonderful memoir about a strong woman who, in spite of physical obstacles, managed to lead the second largest Indian Tribe in America. It is not just a memoir about a strong woman, it is also a history of a strong Indian tribe. It is an absolutely wonderful book and one that every serious reader of history should read.

I picked this book up two years ago while traveling in Cherokee, NC, and never found the time to read it till recently, when I knew that we would be outside and camping again. (It seems that I do my best reading when we're traveling ...) I found the subject title fascinating and when I did finally get to the book, I found it even more fascinating and curious. This is a woman in every sense of the word. Wilma Mankiller is a heroine that every woman should look up to ~~ young and old.

Wilma Mankiller grew up in poverty-stricken Oklahoma and while she was still young, her family relocated to California as part of the Native American relocation program that was offered just after WWII. She grew up in California, married young and had two daughters. She became involved with the civil rights movement and at the same time, she has never lost sense of her own heritage. After her marriage fell apart, she moved back home to Oklahoma, went onto working for the Cherokee National Tribe doing various things and eventually became the first Woman Chief. Intermixed with her personal tale are ancient stories from the Cherokee history ~~ of the times before they left their homelands, about the Trail of Tears, and so on. It's history mixed in with personal story-telling and it's a wonderful way to read this book.

Unlike some reviewers, I did not find Mankiller bashing the whites for all their problems ~~ she was very diplomatic in telling the readers about the history ~~ but the history has shown that when the white settlers came to America, they did break treaties and their promises, and there's reason why the Native Americans don't trust them ~~ the government of US and its citizens have not given them reason to. But on the same breath, Mankiller mentions that her tribe has a hard time with change ~~ she doesn't sit there and bemoaned the loss of their ancient lands, she gets out and work on solving the problems that her tribe is facing. She admits that change has occurred and she's very realistic about fixing the problems. I cannot but help admire her for that.

This is an excellent book ~~ it's guaranteed to be a thought-provoker in conversations and discourses ~~ at least it has for my husband and me. It is such an interesting tale about a woman who never learned the words, I can't. She never gave up the fight for her people. This book is just a small testimony to that fight.

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on July 15, 2001
I found it very hard to close this book! I was riveted to Chief Mankiller's every word and finished her book still wanting more. Her knowledge of Cherokee history and legend is vast and taught me many things I never knew. Also, her strength and enduring spirit is inspiring to me as a Cherokee. She succeeded, through her own life story, in instilling a new sense of pride in me that has made me become more involved in keeping native american culture alive and well. After reading her book I truly felt proud to be Cherokee. She should be an inspiration to us all. Highly recommended reading!
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on February 5, 1999
The author does an excellent job of reviewing Cherokee history and explaining how the Cherokee individual has assimilated into today's American culture. It was pointed out that education has always been highly valued in the Cherokee tradition and the tribe has remained alive and well because culture never dies when there is communication. The Cherokee people highly value the history of their matriarchs. Women were respected and valued in the tribe. That tradition has surfaced in this century with the leadership of Ms. Mankiller. On a personal note, it was enlightening that Wilma shared much of her personal life with us, the readers. She is blessed to have found a life-partner with Charlie. He comes from a good family. I used to watch the Soap boys play basketball in school. Thanks for a good book about a great people.
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on August 30, 2013
I was somewhat aware of Wilma Mankiller prior to reading this book but I had no idea of the journey she had traveled in her life. This story is not only a tale of the many twists and turns in her life, but also a great introduction to the Cherokee people and the struggles that they endure. Wilma mankiller is not one who will be remembered in history outside of her tribal circles, but her story is an important one.
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on January 4, 2016
This autobiography is a MUST read!!! An eye opening history of the Native Americans who were far more resilient than seems imaginable! Thank you, Wilma Mankiller, for heightening my already sensitive curiousness about this country's indigenous people!
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on December 28, 2013
I am part Cherokee and have always been proud of it. I never knew of this book however and really enjoyed reading it. I was especially interested to find out how Wilma's and my paths crossed many times. I have a cousin that researched our Cherokee history and published 5 volumes about the family. Such a brave lady of whom we can all be thankful for.
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on September 3, 1998
Mankiller details her journey from an Oklahoma childhood to urban life in San Francisco. There she became involved at the local Indian center and at the Alcatraz Island occupation of 1969. She details her journey from urban Indian activist to leader of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. In returning to her homeland, she found herself and lovingly details the excitement of working with her Cherokee community. She also tells how through her involvement she gained the trust of tribespeople and became the first female chief of the Cherokee. An exciting story, well told.
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HALL OF FAMEon November 25, 2008
This rewarding tome from Wilma Mankiller, Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation from 1985 to 1995, alternates between her autobiography and a tribal history. The book's structure is often awkward, but we get more than just the instructive story of a courageous woman who rose to be a great leader among her people. Most rewarding is a crucial recent history of Native Americans and their modern struggles, which are rarely covered in more anthropological histories. Especially stirring are Mankiller's coverage of yet another disastrous federal relocation program for Indians in the 1950s, and unique perspectives on internal Cherokee politics. There are a few problems with this book, such as when Mankiller tries to deliver a social history of her coming-of-age in the late 1960s but keeps falling into thin baby boomer nostalgia, while she mostly avoids several controversies that developed during her term in office (which are covered in-depth in other sources). The tail end of the book also devolves into attempts at inspirational self-help platitudes. But Wilma Mankiller emerges here as a strong human being who overcame great personal struggles to become an effective leader, and her perspectives on the challenges faced by her people are essential reading for any concerned American. [~doomsdayer520~]
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on October 31, 2000
First of all, I would encourage anyone who is interested in the history and culture of the Cherokees to read this book. The average American is taught very little about the native peoples who inhabited this land before the white men took over. The first reviewer, gsibbery from Baton Rouge, LA, shows the mentality of most whites today. The native Americans have been trying to share their views and feelings for years but most people do not care to listen, and in general, do not care about the circumstances these people have had to endure. I commend Mrs. Wilma Mankiller for the effort and time she spent in writing this book and I thoroughly enjoyed it and have shared it with others. I think we all need to try to see things from another's perspective sometimes. It was a great book!!
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