Wilma Mankiller
Wilma Mankiller appears on a new quarter slated for release in 2022. (U.S. Mint)

The design has been chosen for a new quarter honoring Wilma Mankiller. It will be the third coin of the American Women Quarters program, which will begin circulating in 2022. 

The selection of Mankiller, who was the first woman elected principal chief of the Cherokee Nation, was announced in June by the U.S. Mint. 

The design features an image of Mankiller, the wind at her back, gazing to the right, into the future, according to the U.S. Mint. She is wrapped in a traditional shawl with the seven-pointed star of the Cherokee Nation to her left. Below her, “Cherokee Nation” appears in the Cherokee syllabary.

The coin was designed by noted U.S. Mint sculptor Phoebe Hemphill, who also sculpted the 2020 Native American one-dollar coin.

Gaylord NewsThis story was reported by Gaylord News, a Washington reporting project of the Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Oklahoma.

Mankiller is one of five women chosen by the U.S. Mint for the new American Women Quarters program. The others are writer, performer and social activist Maya Angelou; physicist and space pioneer Sally Ride; suffrage leader Nina Otero-Warren and Chinese-American film star Anna May Wong. Others are expected to be chosen for the years 2023 to 2025.

The selection of Mankiller is a powerful moment, Oklahoma female chiefs and tribal leaders said.

Edwina Butler-Wolfe, former governor of the Absentee Shawnee Tribe and now education director of the Sac and Fox Nation, said Mankiller played a role in her gaining the confidence to become an Indigenous woman leader.

“I like the saying that Wilma used: She had said, ‘Women can help turn the world right-side-up,’” Butler-Wolfe said. “We bring a more collaborative approach to government. If we do not participate, the decision will be made without us. And that’s so very true. And I took that to heart, because you got to be at the table.”

The new quarter design, Butler-Wolfe said, shows that “our Native American women can be somebody.” 

“Wilma Mankiller made a pathway to all American Indian women who seek to take on the role of being a leader in a tribal government,” she added. 

Butler-Wolfe said that doesn’t mean she or those around her haven’t had pushback from their own communities on the issue of women in tribal leadership.

When the quarter comes out, Butler-Wolfe said, she plans to implement more teaching on Mankiller in her capacity as education director. Without Mankiller, she said, there probably wouldn’t be as many Indigenous women leaders as there are today.

Butler-Wolfe said she would like to ensure tribes’ schools have lessons on the life and influence of Mankiller.

“I see it only as promoting and inspiring kids,” Butler-Wolfe said. “Maybe one little girl sitting out there in the classroom — that may be a leader someday, we never know. I never knew I was going to be a leader.”

‘You could feel a good presence around her’

Women leaders are not new to the Kaw Nation, according to Chairwoman Lynn Williams. She said she is the fourth woman to lead her tribe.

Williams called the upcoming quarter release “awesome” and said she met Mankiller once and listened to her speak numerous times.

“She was a great woman,” Williams said. “You could feel a good presence around her. When she spoke, it was in such a way that she didn’t have to be harsh or anything, but she could get her point across.”

Williams said having Mankiller’s face on the quarter will be positive for tribes and young tribal citizens.

“We as natives have been silent for far too long,” Williams said. “We want our voices to be heard. We want people to know how things really are for us. I think having her face on that quarter is just going to help us and help our young people to realize anybody can do whatever you set your mind and your heart to do.”