In 1985 Wilma Mankiller became the first woman principal chief of the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma; she served in this position until 1994.
Mankiller focused on increasing job and educational opportunities for the Cherokee people.
In 1990 she signed an important agreement giving the Cherokee Nation control over the federal funds it received and greater power to govern itself.
Her approval rating was so high that she won her reelection in 1991 by a landslide, with 83 percent of the vote.
Later, in her autobiography, she wrote, “Prior to my becoming chief, young Cherokee girls never thought they might be able to grow up and become chief themselves. That has definitely changed.”