Her reach is now broadening with a quintessential American honor: a Barbie doll in the late Mankiller's likeness as part of toymaker
A public ceremony honoring Mankiller’s legacy is set for Tuesday in
Mankiller was the nation's first female principal chief, leading the tribe for a decade until 1995. She focused on improving social conditions through consensus and on restoring pride in Native heritage. She met with three
She also met snide remarks about her surname — a military title — with humor, often delivering a straight-faced response: “Mankiller is actually a well-earned nickname.” She died in 2010.
The tribe’s current leader, Principal Chief
“When Native girls see it, they can achieve it, and
Mankiller, whose likeness is on ain 2021, is the second Native American woman honored with a Barbie doll. Famed , who was of Black and Cherokee ancestry, was depicted earlier this year.
Other dolls in the series include Maya Angelou,
The rollout of the Barbie doll featuring Mankiller wearing a ribbon skirt, black shoes and carrying a woven basket has been met with conflicting reactions.
Many say the doll is a fitting tribute for a remarkable leader who faced conflict head-on and helped the tribe triple its enrollment, double its employment and build new health centers and children's programs.
Still, some Cherokee women are critical, saying
“Mixed emotions shared by me and many other Cherokee women who have now purchased the product revolve around whether a
“Wilma’s name is the only thing Cherokee on that box,” Thompson said. “Nothing about that doll is Wilma, nothing.”
The Cherokee language symbols on the packaging also are wrong, she noted. Two symbols look similar, and the one used translates to “Chicken,” rather than “Cherokee.”
Several Cherokees also criticized
“I have no issues with the doll. I have no issues with honoring my mom in different ways,” said Olaya, who acknowledged she and Soap, her stepfather, are estranged. “The issue is that no one informed me, no one told me. I didn't know it was coming.”
Olaya also wonders how her mother would feel about being honored with a Barbie doll.
“I heard her once on the phone saying, ‘I’m not
“I’m not sure how she would feel about this," Olaya said.
Still, Olaya said she hopes to buy some of the dolls for her grandchildren and is always grateful for people to learn about her mother's legacy.
“I have a warm feeling about the thought of my granddaughters playing with a Wilma Mankiller Barbie,” she said.
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