By Wendy Thomas
We are fortunate at Onondaga to have some extraordinary visitors who go out of their way to come here when they are anywhere in the vicinity. On Tuesday, March 28, 2006 Wilma Mankiller was the featured guest for the Syracuse University Lecture Series. She started her busy day by coming to our Cookhouse to share breakfast and company with many women from our community. Wilma said she felt at home during our breakfast, conversation, and even photos.
Wilma Mankiller is perhaps the most visible woman activist working not only for the rights of the Cherokee but for natives across the country. She has served on the 220,000 member Cherokee Nation for ten years and recently wrote a book titled, “Every Day is a Good Day.”
During breakfast she talked about overcoming obstacles, and finding a positive in even the most heart-breaking experiences. She has had her share. Wilma is a survivor of personal tragedies, nearly losing her life in a car accident, living with a chronic neuromuscular disease, and undergoing and surviving a kidney transplant. Wilma Mankiller is a very strong, very secure knowledgeable woman.
After a luncheon at SU, meeting with students, and a dinner-attended by invited guests, Tadodaho and Cindy Hill among them, Wilma took the podium at Hendricks Chapel. She began by commenting about her busy day-noting that no-one had asked her about her name-Mankiller. She shared humorous stories about the reactions of people to her name in her travels. Her lecture was titled “Context is Everything: The Role of History and Culture in Rebuilding Tribal Nations.” She drew positive connections to Onondaga in talking about the Cherokee ’good mind.’ She said native people have to filter everything they learn, read, hear in the dominant society-putting things into our own perspective, using our own teachings.
When asked about our land rights action, she said she wasn’t familiar with it, but added without hesitation, “anything Onondaga does, is all right by me.” Support like that from Wilma Mankiller is a great compliment.