Mankiller Poems: The lost poetry of the Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation
The miraculous story of how these lost poems were found is as improbable and inspiring as the story of the poet herself, Wilma Mankiller. Most of the works in Mankiller Poems have never been published before; several weren’t read by anyone other than the poet until they were discovered and rescued from a barn on Mankiller’s property in 2021. The woman who served as Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation died in 2010, but with these poems her voice is still ringing out, testifying to the life of Indigenous peoples and offering wisdom for all.
The book is arranged chronologically in three sections so that the earliest works lead through the path of Mankiller’s life to indicate, as the editors write, her “personal and professional journey.” The start of each section features a mini-essay by writer Mark Trahant, the head of the Indigenous Economics Project at Indian Country Today. Trahant offers context for each section and a transition between them so that even those unfamiliar with Mankiller’s life can see how each group of poems reflects a particular time in her life.
Language and imagery of the Native American experience pepper these poems, but they are as much about being human as they are about anything. The connection to the natural world and the reality that the personal is political live and breathe in these wonderful Mankiller Poems.
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