Wilma Mankiller Day A Highlight Of University's Service Week

L-R: Daughters Felicia and Gina Olaya urged the audience to remember their mother as not only a former Principal Cherokee Chief, but as a mother, grandmother, speaker, author and woman. (Photo Courtesy Northeaster State University)

Northeastern State University honors the life of former Cherokee chief Wilma Mankiller during its 2013 Be The Change Week.

Students on campus celebrated Wilma Mankiller Day Thursday as just one part of a week-long series on volunteering and service.

Mankiller Day included speeches from the late leaders two daughters Felicia and Gina Olaya and her husband Charlie Soap.

"Be The Change Week" grew from the national Martin Luther King Day of Service on Monday. Dr. Jennifer McCann of the Indigenous Scholar Development Center said students honoring Gloria Steinem on Tuesday and the Greensboro Four on Wednesday.

"I believe it speaks well of the students that they recognized the work of Mankiller and wanted to honor her," McCann said. "When she was a Sequoyah Fellow at NSU, she planted the seeds of the Indigenous Leadership Center, for which we in the ISDC are laying the foundation. This is a way for all to show that we appreciate and support the work Mankiller did throughout her lifetime."

Attendees heard excerpts from Mankiller's books and had the chance to eat as part of a free hog fry.

Charlie Soap recalled how young women would come up to Wilma and tell her how much she inspired them. They would tell her that she set the example for what they wanted to do with their lives, he said.

"She was loving. She cared and loved for her people and had a lot of passion for her work and her leadership. A very compassionate person. A true leader," he said.

Wilma Mankiller Day wrapped up with a screening of "The Cherokee Word for Water". It's a documentary chronicling Soap and Mankiller's efforts to bring a water line to the community of Bell.

She passed away in 2010 after a long battle with cancer.

Northeastern State University Staff and Students Contributed Pictures and Information For This Story