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U.S. Mint Honors Mankiller

U.S. Mint Honors Mankiller
January 20
10:10 2022

By John Christian Hopkins

Design of quarter honoring Wilma Mankiller. Photo courtesy of usmint.gov.

Former Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Wilma Mankiller was among those selected by the United States Mint and the American Women Quarters Program to be featured on the two-bits coin.

The new quarter will be in full coin circulation this year.

According to the U.S. Mint, this will be the third coin from the American Women Quarters Program that is a four-year showcase that celebrates the accomplishments and contributions made by women to the development and history of the United States.

“Chief Wilma Mankiller was the first woman elected Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation. She spent most of her life advocating for Native American women’s rights and tribal issues that were ignored by the federal government,” Navajo Council Delegate Eugenia Charles-Newton said. “The Navajo Nation and our Diné women recognize her forward thinking and candid leadership that held the federal government accountable. Chief Wilma Mankiller’s image will forever be etched into history as a woman who transformed leadership, who inspired Native women and young girls that made it possible to dream big.”

Mankiller spent most of her life advocating for Native American women’s rights and tribal issues that were ignored by the federal government, Charles-Newton added.

Her leadership created the Cherokee Community Development Department that led to the establishment of clean water systems, and the rehabilitation of tribal houses for hundreds of families, Charles-Newton continued.

Born 1945, on the Cherokee Nation, a drought devastated Mankiller’s community, relocating her family to a California housing project in 1950. Through most of her younger years, Mankiller experienced culture shock, poverty, and racism in an urban setting.

“The Navajo Nation celebrates the life and legacy of the late Chief Wilma Mankiller. Like our beloved grandma, Dr. Annie Dodge Wauneka, Chief Mankiller received the Presidential Medal of Freedom for building health care centers and establishing children’s programs,” Delegate Amber Kanazbah Crotty said. “Our Indigenous women have been at the forefront leading communities, raising families, and carrying the oral tradition since time immemorial. We are forever grateful for their strength and courage to pave the way for current and future Asdzání béésh bąąh dah si’ání,” Kanazbah Crotty added.

Beginning this month, the U.S. Mint will issue up to five new reverse designs each year. The Chief Wilma Mankiller third quarter will feature her wrapped in a traditional shawl with the seven-pointed star of the Cherokee Nation to the right and “Cherokee Nation” written in the Cherokee syllabary below her name.

Mint sculptor Phebe Hemphill is the coin designer, who also sculpted several Code Talker and Native American coins this decade.

Mankiller was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Bill Clinton, which is the nation’s highest civilian honor, Delegate Charlaine Tso said.

“She is a longtime champion for the rights of Indigenous women and served decades as the leader of the Cherokee Nation. She is an advocate for tribal self-determination and a national best-selling author who told the true story of her community,” Tso said. Our Navajo women honor her hard work uplifting the voices of our young Indigenous girls around the country. May this quarter honor her memory for years to come.”

The American Women Quarters Program has chosen the following distinguished women to be celebrated in 2022:

  • Maya Angelou – celebrated writer, performer, and social activist.
  • Dr. Sally Ride – physicist, astronaut, educator, and first American woman in space.
  • Wilma Mankiller – first female Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation.
  • Nina Otero-Warren – a leader in New Mexico’s suffrage movement and the first female Superintendent of Santa Fe Public Schools.
  • Anna May Wong – first Chinese American film star in Hollywood.

You can see the designs for the American Woman Quarters Program at usmint.gov.

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