TAHLEQUAH, Okla. (KFOR) – Barbie is recognizing Wilma Mankiller, first female Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation, as the newest addition to the Barbie Inspiring Women series.

Wilma Mankiller Barbie
Wilma Mankiller. Image courtesy Barbie.

The doll’s look is inspired by an iconic photograph of Mankiller, taken by her husband, Charlie Soap, in 2005 – right down to the woven basket that she holds.

“When Native girls see it, they can achieve it, and Wilma Mankiller has shown countless young women to be fearless and speak up for Indigenous and Human rights. She not only served in a role dominated by men during a time that tribal nations were suppressed, but she led. Wilma Mankiller is a champion for the Cherokee Nation, for Indian Country and even my own daughter. She truly exemplifies leadership, culture and equality and we applaud Mattel for commemorating her in the Barbie Inspiring Women Series,” said Chuck Hoskin Jr., current Cherokee Nation Principal Chief.

Wilma Mankiller Headshot
Wilma Mankiller.

“As a social worker who dedicated herself to empowering indigenous communities, Wilma worked hard to make the world brighter for future generations, earning the prestigious Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1998,” Mattel said.

As Principal Chief, Mankiller revitalized the Nation’s tribal government, and advocated for improved healthcare and housing services.

Under her 10-year leadership, infant mortality declined and educational achievement rose in the Cherokee Nation, whose population more than doubled – from 68,000 to 170,000 – during her tenure.

“Wilma Mankiller’s legacy was marked by her resounding commitment to Cherokee self-determination, which opened the door for the tribe to run its own services for its people, and the cultural value of ‘Gadugi’ – a Cherokee word that describes the community working together for the greater good,” Mattel said.

Mattel says the Barbie design team worked directly with Wilma Mankiller’s Estate and the Cherokee Nation to sculpt a doll in proper reflection of her likeness and to ensure it sufficiently captured her essence.

Barbie also worked closely with Wilma Mankiller’s family and friends, including husband
Charlie Soap, a bilingual Cherokee who was a community development partner for more than 30 years and a leader in the Bell Waterline Project – an initiative led by Mankiller.

“I am deeply honored Mattel is recognizing Wilma with the Wilma Mankiller doll. Wilma inspired me and many others to make the world a better place. As her community development partner for over thirty years, we shared a passion for empowering Indian communities and educating future generations. The Wilma Mankiller Barbie doll is an incredible tribute to Wilma that will share her legacy with even more people,” said Soap.

Kristina Kiehl, Mankiller’s good friend who worked on her campaigns for Chief and produced “Cherokee Word for Water,” the documentary honoring Wilma Mankiller’s legacy, also helped develop the Barbie.

“Wilma’s impact on women’s rights and her strength to break down barriers continues to be an inspiration for women and girls in Native communities throughout our world. Wilma always brought others to the table with her and she would be very happy that Mattel is including other indigenous dolls. Barbie celebrating her legacy with the Wilma Mankiller Inspiring Women doll continues to share her story with so many others for years to come,” said Kiehl.

Mattel says to honor Wilma Mankiller’s tireless dedication to Native American and women’s rights, Barbie will contribute $25,000 to The American Indian Resources Center – an organization whose mission is to provide cultural and educational opportunities to nurture the growth of indigenous communities – to support initiatives dedicated to empowering indigenous women and girls and fostering cultural preservation and traditions within the Native American community.

The Wilma Mankiller Barbie can be bought online for $35. Check availability at top retail stores on Mattel’s website.

The Cherokee Nation says a special event to celebrate the Barbie’s release will take place in Tahlequah, with more details to come.