Wilma’s Way Home, The Life of Wilma Mankiller

Written by: Doreen Rappaport

Illustrated by: Linda Kukuk

For ages: 5 years and up

Language: English

Topics Covered: Indigenous Voices, Cherokee Nation, Trailblazer, Feminism, Activism, Politics, Historical Figure, Historic Events, Family, Women in Government, Women in Leadership, Community.

Summary: This is a story about the amazing life of Wilma Mankiller, Cherokee woman and first chief of their tribal nation.  This book is unique in that on each page there are quotes by Mankiller that reinforce the information written on the page by the author.  These quotes are bold and bright green, making it easy to see and hear Wilma’s voice within the story. Wilma was born in Oklahoma and lived there for her childhood until the government mandated that indigenous people be relocated, and her family was sent to San Francisco.  She married at 18, had two daughters, and continued to invest her time and energy into bettering life for her Cherokee community.  She struggled to reconnect to her Cherokee heritage, and began visiting the Oakland Indian Center regularly.  Becoming a champion for Native activists (including her own siblings!) Wilma raised money and awareness when Indigenous activists held Alcatraz island for 19 months before being forcibly removed.  The book also details her long recovery from a car accident, and how the community rallied together to support her during those trying months of recuperation.

This book covers a huge amount of information, but it is not presented in an overwhelming way.  The life of Wilma Mankiller is fascinating, and the reader is left wanting more!  It addresses the modern atrocities that our government has continually enacted upon the Indigenous populations that live in the United States in a developmentally appropriate way but at the same time does not shy away or try to sugarcoat the emotional impact that the Cherokee community is still reeling from today.

Reflection Questions:

  • Why do you think children made fun of Wilma’s last name?
  • How do you think Wilma felt when she had to justify her own interests in her Cherokee heritage?
  • What is a question you wish you could ask Wilma?
  • What do you know about holding an election or running for office?

About the Author & the Illustrator:

doreenphotosmallDoreen Rappaport is an award-winning author of 69 nonfiction books that celebrate multiculturalism, history, the lives of world leaders and the stories of those she calls ‘not-yet-celebrated.’

Her books have received critical acclaim and awards for her unique ability to combine historical facts with intimate storytelling, and for finding ‘new  ways to present the lives of well-known heroes‚’ like Martin Luther King, Jr., John F. Kennedy, Eleanor Roosevelt, Helen Keller and the Statue of Liberty. –  A dynamic writer-teacher-storyteller in the classroom, she is a frequent speaker at state and national educational conferences, universities, libraries, historical societies, book fairs, and community centers.  She has been a featured author at the National Portrait Gallery, National Book Festival, the Smithsonian Museum of American History and the White House.

22711_2790141w750Linda Kukuk, a life-time resident of the Oklahoma City area, is a self-taught artist.  Since the early 1960’s she has participated in numerous art shows, specializing in scratch board art.  She and her husband have traveled extensively throughout Africa, Europe, Russia, and the South Pacific, which has given her a myriad of interesting subjects to paint and draw.

Her retirement as Chief of the Commander’s Protocol Office at Tinker AFB in March 2002, has given her more time to pursue her artistic endeavors.   Since then, she has been painting mainly in watercolor and has discovered this just may be her favorite medium. She still continues with scratchwork, but is using clayboard, which allows her to add watercolor to this traditionally “black and white” medium.   Linda enjoys painting a very wide variety of subjects and considers anything to be fair game for her paper and clayboard.

Being a native Oklahoman of rich Choctaw ancestry, and having grown up in rural Oklahoma, she especially enjoys painting Native American themes.   Her Great Grandfather, Henry Pleasant Ward, was a member of the Choctaw Nation Legislature and also became Judge of Atoka County. The Ward family consisted of a number of prosperous, well respected, leaders just previous and following Oklahoma Statehood.  They are well represented in the historical book by H.F. O’Beirne, “Leaders & Leading Men of the Indian Territory, published in 1891.

She is a Signature member of ISSA (International Society of Scratchboard Artists) Two of her scratchworks were selected for the ISSA International Show in Vancouver BC, Canada in 2013. One of her scratchworks was selected for the ISSA International Show in Tucson in 2016 and two were selected for the Show in Adelaide, Australia in 2017  She has won numerous awards and purchase awards for her paintings and scratchworks throughout her career.  Linda’s work has been in the Festival of Arts in Oklahoma City, as well as the OCCC Arts Festival Oklahoma, Downtown Edmond Art Festivals, Red Earth Art Shows, Cherokee Art Market in Tulsa and Oklahoma Art Guild National Shows – all juried shows.   She participates, annually, in the OWA-Chito Festival of the Forest Art Show, which is a regional show including Oklahoma, Arkansas, Texas and Missouri.

Linda is sought after, by various art associations and clubs throughout the country, to demonstrate her scratchboard techniques and watercolor on clayboard.  She loves the opportunity to show other artists what she has learned through the years.

She is represented by The Howell Gallery in Nichols Hills, Red Earth Gallery in Oklahoma City, and Tatiana Art Studio in Moscow, Russia. Many of her scratchworks and paintings are on display in public facilities, such as the Metropolitan Library, Red Earth Gallery permanent collection, Dean A. McGee Eye Institute and Choctaw Nation Clinic, Clinic Administrative Offices, Headquarters Buildings in Durant, Oklahoma  and Behavioral Health Clinic in Talihina, Oklahoma.

Linda is presently doing work for Disney Publishing, illustrating a children’s book on Chief Wilma Mankiller’s life, which is scheduled to be released in February 2019.

 “International Artist” magazine selected one of Linda’s paintings to be featured in one of their books.  The title of the book is “How Did You Paint That? 100 Ways to Paint Still Life’s and Florals Vol. II.” “International Artist Magazine” featured Linda and one of her scratchworks in their October/November 2014 issue.  She was also featured in “International Artist Magazine” Master Painters of the World, USA in the June-July 2017 issue.

In addition to art, Linda enjoys photography, travel, gardening, cooking, and holds an Extra Class Amateur Radio Operator’s license.  Believing God has given her a wonderful gift, she also enjoys sharing her artistic talent to support numerous charitable events each year.

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