ix Introduction: Why Wilma Mankiller Matters The life story of Wilma Mankiller illustrates the power of perseverance despite continuing challenges. Wilma wanted to be remembered as the person who restored faith in the Cherokee people (Mankiller 1993). She certainly accomplished that—and much more—as a trailblazer, treaty rights activist, feminist activist, community developer, and Cherokee leader. Her inspirational life story coincides with major federal Indian policy that had both devastating and welcoming effects on American Indian communities from the 1950s through the 1990s. During the Termination and Relocation years of the Eisenhower administration, Wilma and her family moved to San Francisco for better opportunities, as promised by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Urban poverty and few opportunities met them in California. Wilma experienced culture shock on a variety of levels and found solace at the San Francisco Indian Center. Here she interacted with other young Indian people from all around the country and slowly became interested in national Indian affairs and in her own Cherokee heri- tage. Wilma learned many lessons about grassroots activism and negotiat- ing with the federal government on behalf of Indian people during this period (Blansett 2018, 85). The Red Power Movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s emerged out of frustration, hope, and bringing diverse Indian people together from around the country. Tribal sovereignty and protection of Indigenous human rights, including political reform through intertribalism, became the new focus for urban Indians. As the Red Power Movement coincided with the Civil Rights Movement, Wilma and her friends learned many valuable lessons about nonviolent direct action to exact change. It was in
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