WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of the Treasury has approved an image of former Principal Chief Wilma Mankiller with “a resolute gaze to the future” for the reverse side of a 2022 quarter as part of the U.S. Mint’s American Women Quarters series.
“These inspiring coin designs tell the stories of five extraordinary women whose contributions are indelibly etched in American culture,” acting Mint Director Alison L. Doone said via a news release. “Generations to come will look at coins bearing these designs and be reminded of what can be accomplished with vision, determination and a desire to improve opportunities for all.”
The Mint plans to issue five quarters in the American Women Quarters series each year from 2022-25. Next year’s coins will recognize the achievements of Mankiller, Maya Angelou, Dr. Sally Ride, Nina Otero-Warren and Anna May Wong.
The Mankiller design, one of three that were considered, includes inscriptions that read “Principal Chief” and, in the Cherokee Language, “Cherokee Nation.” Mankiller served as principal chief from 1985-95.
“Chief Mankiller was quite a force,” Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. said in July as the coin designs were narrowed. “When she became chief in the 1980s, Cherokee Nation was still trying to regain its footing from nearly a century of oppression and suppression of our government by the United States. Chief Mankiller was very bold in what she expected the United States to do, which was to provide resources that they were obliged to provide and to get out of the way of the Cherokee Nation so we could chart our own destiny. Chief Mankiller was someone who survived in an office that had been previously dominated by men. I think she sparked a generation, particularly a generation of Cherokee girls, in showing them what was possible.”
In 1985, then Deputy Chief Mankiller took over for Principal Chief Ross Swimmer, who resigned to head the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Washington, D.C. Mankiller was elected to the seat in 1987 and again in 1991. She resigned from public office in 1995.
“She led for 10 years, guiding a sovereign nation whose population more than doubled, from 68,000 to 170,000, during her tenure,” a biography from the National Women’s History Museum states. “The first woman to be elected chief of a major American Indian tribe, she revitalized the Nation’s tribal government, and advocated relentlessly for improved education, healthcare and housing services. Under her leadership, infant mortality declined and educational achievement rose in the Cherokee Nation.”
Mankiller died from pancreatic cancer on April 6, 2010, at her Adair County home at age 64. Following her passing, President Barack Obama said, “As the Cherokee Nation’s first female chief, she transformed the nation-to-nation relationship between the Cherokee Nation and the federal government, and served as an inspiration to women in Indian Country and across America. A recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, she was recognized for her vision and commitment to a brighter future for all Americans.”
Coin designs not chosen featured depictions of Mankiller with her arms crossed above the seven-pointed star, and taking the oath of office.
Next year’s coins, the first of 20, will also feature Angelou, a celebrated writer, performer and social activist; Ride, a physicist, astronaut and first American woman to soar into space; Otero-Warren, a leader in New Mexico’s suffrage movement; and Wong, the first Chinese American film star in Hollywood.