Wilma Mankiller, author, activist and former principal chief of the Cherokee Nation, will present the fifth annual Maurice Meyer Distinguished Endowed Lecture on Tuesday, April 13, at 11:00 a.m. in Will Rogers Auditorium at Rogers State University.
The title of her lecture, which is free and open to the public, will be “Critical Issues Facing Native American People in the 21st Century.”
Her roots are planted deep in the rural community of Mankiller Flats in Adair County, where she has spent most of her life. She was born in 1945 at Hastings Indian Hospital in Tahlequah, and grew up with few amenities. At age 10, her family moved to San Francisco as part of the Bureau of Indian Affairs Relocation Program where she lived for two decades before returning to Oklahoma.
In 1969, when American Indian activists occupied Alcatraz Island to dramatize the injustices their people had suffered, her brothers and sisters joined the occupation and she experienced a call to action, and hasn’t stopped since. In the early 1970s she worked as a volunteer for the Pit River Tribe and served as the founding director of a Native American youth center in Oakland, Calif. In 1977, she returned to Oklahoma and began employment with the Cherokee Nation.
In 1983, she was elected the first female deputy chief of the Cherokee Nation, and president of the tribal council. In 1987, she was elected to serve as the first female principal chief of the Cherokee Nation, and was overwhelmingly re-elected in 1991. She chose not to seek re-election in 1995.
During Mankiller’s tenure she met with Presidents Reagan, Bush, and Clinton to present critical tribal issues. She is the recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
She published several books including “Mankiller: A Chief and Her People,” and co-edited “A Reader’s Companion to the History of Women in the U.S.”
The Maurice Meyer Endowed Lectureship was established at RSU in 1999 as a tribute to Sgt. Maurice Meyer by his nephew, Irvin Frank of Tulsa.
Maurice Meyer was a member of Company A, 357 Regiment. He served with distinction as an officer of the 90th Division during the St. Mihiel campaign in France during World War I. He was killed by German shrapnel on Sept. 23, 1918. He died the following day and was accorded a hero’s funeral in Tulsa on May 3, 1922.
In 1920 the first barracks were built on the campus of the Oklahoma Military Academy (RSU’s predecessor institution). The building was named the Maurice Meyer Barracks in honor of Oklahoma’s fallen war hero. Today, the same building, now Meyer Hall, houses the RSU administrative offices and the Oklahoma Military Academy Museum.
The Maurice Meyer Endowed Lectureship is held annually to honor the legacy of the Meyer family and to honor the life of an American who died defending freedom and democracy. The goal of the lectureship is to foster an appreciation for diversity and humanity and to promote tolerance and understanding of other cultures, people and ideas.
For more information, call the RSU Office of Development at (918) 343-7773.