Wilma Mankiller
A Life in American History
by Tamrala Swafford Bliss
February 2023, 198pp, 6 1/8x9 1/4
1 volume, ABC-CLIO

Hardcover: 978-1-4408-7386-7
$65, £50, 57€, A90
eBook Available: 978-1-4408-7387-4
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

The life of Wilma Mankiller, the first female elected Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation, is a remarkable story of perseverance in the face of enormous personal obstacles.

An excellent resource for students of Native American women's history, Wilma Mankiller provides an overview of contemporary federal Indian policy and explores how Mankiller negotiated the relationship between the Cherokee Nation and the United States in the late 20th century.

Wilma Mankiller’s work for the Cherokee Nation helped to create a flourishing economy, an increased sense of pride, and a renewed sense of community for the residents of the nation over the twenty years that followed.

This is the first biography of Wilma Mankiller written for an adult audience. Incorporating aspects of federal Indian policy and Cherokee History, chapters explore Mankiller’s involvement at the Indian Center, her interactions with other Indian activists, and her participation in the occupation of Alcatraz Island in 1969 and the Pit River tribes struggle in the early 1970s. Also covered is Cherokee history from the 1830s concerning the Trail of Tears and its impact on Cherokee identity.

Chronological organization allows readers to discover Mankiller’s growth and development from a student activist in San Francisco to a Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation in rural northeastern Oklahoma. The book explores the themes of land, education, community, identity, treaty rights and sovereignty, and traditional tribal knowledge.


  • Offers readers an understanding of contemporary Native American experiences and constant struggles
  • Explains Mankiller’s leadership style that produced remarkable results in the face of budget cuts
  • Reveals the importance of maintaining cultural values in helping instill pride and personal responsibility in Indian communities
  • Reminds readers of the importance of community involvement
Tamrala Swafford Bliss, PhD, is adjunct professor at University of Maryland Global Campus, American Public University in Charlestown, WV, and Bethel University. She earned an MA in American history and Cherokee Studies from Western Carolina University and a PhD in American history from Arizona State University. She is a member of the Western History Association and the Organization of American Historians.

Women Making History

Women Making History is a series of single volume books that examine the lives and historical impact of the most iconic figures in American Women’s history.

Books in the Women Making History series explore the lives and contributions of important women in American history. Each volume goes beyond biographical details to consider historical context and explicitly discuss the world in which the individual lived and worked, the challenges she faced, and her lasting contributions. This approach allows readers to explore not just the life of a particular woman but also her various political, social, cultural, and historical contexts. In addition to chronological chapters, sidebars, a timeline, document excerpts, and a bibliography, an introductory chapter explores the cultural and historical significance of the individual and places her in the overall historical context, as well as how her actions, beliefs, or positions influenced not only women’s history, but history as a whole.


Each title in the series includes:
    • Series foreword
    • Preface
    • Chronological biographical chapters with sidebars
    • Supplemental chapter that explores "Why the Person Matters"
    • Timeline
    • Primary source documents
    • Bibliography
    • About the author
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