Wilma Mankiller walked on five years ago today on April 6, 2010
TAHLEQUAH, OKLAHOMA – Former Chief of the Cherokee Nation, Wilma Mankiller, is one of four potential candidates chosen to permanently replace seventh U.S. President Andrew Jackson on the $20 dollar bill for production in year 2020.
“Because of strong public sentiment that people should have the choice of a Native American to replace Andrew Jackson, Cherokee Nation Chief Wilma Mankiller will appear on the final round ballot,” reads the Women On 20s website.
Women On 20s started a grassroots movement to change the twenty-dollar bill from President Jackson to an iconic American woman. The organization is making headlines with stories and commercials featuring school-aged children saying that is “unfair” there are only “boys” on the bills.
According to their website it makes two points in regards to Jackson’s removal. One, is his legacy referencing the Indian Removal Act of 1830 and rightfully crediting him as, “a fierce opponent to the central banking system” which makes him “an ironic choice for immortalization on our money.” So ironic, that Chief Mankiller received an automatic bye to the final round as one of four finalists skipping the primary round and a slate of candidates.
“Long over due,” said Jeremy Hamilton, Cherokee citizen. “It would be fitting to replace him with a minority figure he decimated. Many of my friends, and myself included, refuse to carry the current twenty-dollar bill because of his picture.”
Jackson who is notoriously known for signing into law the Indian Removal Act of 1830 and the executive order Specie Circular, the devaluation of paper currency believed to be responsible for the Panic of 1837, seems to be an ironic choice to many and especially to the non-profit, Women On 20s.
American Indians and those identified as non-Native agree that putting Chief Mankiller on the bill would be vindicating and fitting in terms of replacing Jackson with a minority figure of one of the tribes he decimated.
“If we are going to look at replacing a face on our money we need to be representative of who we are. I feel it is important to be diverse in all areas and as inclusive as possible,” said Evan Tipton. “As a Cherokee citizen, I feel having a Native American chief on the United States twenty-dollar bill would carry great meaning for all Native Americans.”
On April 6, 2010, exactly five years ago today, 23 countries around the world lit signal fires in mourning of her passing, signifying her impact as a global leader. President Obama credits her for the transformation of the Nation-to-Nation relationship and serving as an inspiration to women in Indian Country and across America.
“Women play a big part in our tribe, they are leaders and to be respected. There is great leadership that women display among native people. Why not honor our country in that way?” said Charlie Soap, Wilma’s widower. “Whenever Wilma was honored she never accepted it for herself, I’m sure she would accept this honor for all women. It wasn’t about her it was about people. She put people first and that is what a leader is supposed to do.”
According to Wyman Kirk, Cherokee citizen and Cherokee Humanities & Anthropology professor at Northeastern State University, Cherokee southeastern society with its emphasis on the power status that women had historically and even today is preferential. He would rather see someone more contemporary in that regard and thinks Mankiller would be a good option.
A woman on the paper currency is seen as a statement in support of gender equality and potentially race, it may also be indicative of social progression for the U.S.. Ten countries precede the United States with images of prominent women on their paper currency and President Obama is open to the thought of a woman as a permanent replacement for Jackson. However, others think the movement may face opposition fearing that some may feel differently about it.
“I think people, in general, tend to be very conservative and get attached to things for no particular reason other than that’s how they are.” said Kirk, “I hope I’m wrong.”
Kristina Kiehl, producer of the movie “The Cherokee Word for Water,” a movie based on a true story about Wilma Mankiller, believes there is an invisibility issue and that Native American issues and people are still marginalized.
“In terms of contemporary native lives there is not an awareness in general. Wilma changed that in part of because of who she was. But to have Wilma on the 20 dollar bill would be such an important symbol of changing the invisibility. It will change minds; it will open minds; it will focus on the accomplishments of native people today,” said Kiehl.
Huffington Post noted it as an “insult to injury” that she is omitted from most history books despite being a woman head of state of a sovereign nation and serving three unprecedented terms in office.
It is believed greater implications are at stake for Indian Country should Chief Mankiller be the chosen representative. In an interview to Upon Reflection in 1994, in her last term as chief, she acknowledged the diversity of the tribes. She believed coalitions with focus toward agreed upon issues is what is going to bring the tribes and nations together, and that it’s more likely that there will be teams of people that will collaborate on important issues rather than a single leader.
“Native Americans today are fighting to be recognized to society as a whole. Wilma on the $20 would further our efforts to be recognized as powerful entities within the United States,” said Hamilton. “Fights such as the ‘Redskin’ name change, Department of Interior landtrust lawsuit, water rights in the southwest, all have a common theme, we are Native American, we know our rights. I believe that all Native Americans would view the twenty dollar bill as having special meaning if Wilma was selected.”
“When we were all kids, at some point in time, we were told you can be whoever you want to be. You can become whoever you want to become. Chief Mankiller proved that on a high-level for women and is certainly deserving of the honor,” said Tipton.
According to the Women On 20s organization over 250k people have voted online but it takes only 100k to sign the petition to get Congress to consider it.
Click Here for Wilma Mankiller to Replace Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill.
The year 2020 is when the newly printed twenty-dollar bill, in honor of the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment, women’s right to vote, would be scheduled for print should the motion pass.
When traveling abroad, Cherokee citizen and tribal attorney, Courtney Jordan said,
“What I wouldn’t give to have had a Chief Mankiller twenty-dollar bill to explain what is means to be a Native American in the United States today.”
Last night, at 11:59 p.m. April 5th, the primary voting round ended for the selection of three of the most favored iconic American women who will share that final ballot with Chief Mankiller.
According an op/ed written for The New York Times by Louise Erdrich, “It would be poetically just for her to replace Jackson and I love the thought of her soft and majestic face on money. Not to mention the satisfying contrast of her ferocious name.”