Being of Good Mind © Deborah Mackinnon

Being of Good Mind: Wilma P Mankiller

Deborah Mackinnon

Kingston, Washington, USA

Artist Statement

This quilt honors the spirit of Wilma P Mankiller, the first female Chief of the Cherokee Nation, who endured several challenges in her life all with tenacious optimism. “The question I am asked most frequently is why I remain such a positive person…The answer is simple: I am Cherokee, and I am a woman.”

The bargello background from seven shades of yellow commercial fabric, exemplifies sunny optimism and the seven Cherokee clans. Though Mankiller spent 20 years in the San Francisco Bay area, she returned to her grandfather’s land allotment in Oklahoma. “More and more, I found my eyes…looked to the east where the sun begins its daily journey. That was where I had to go.”

The appliquéd water droplets represent the cold springs where her family gathered water, “…dipping into the water…promoted healing. When I returned home, one of the first things I did was bathe in the ice-cold spring…” The droplets also represent the Bell Community Revitalization Project, 16 miles of pipeline laid by community volunteers. Mankiller’s coordination of that effect led to her election as chief.

Shelly Nolte long arm quilted the piece using Rain Drops by Intelligent Quilting. The quote, “I want to be remembered as the person who helped restore faith in ourselves,” is embroidered. The pearl beads added for Mankiller’s middle name Pearl.

It is important to note President Clinton awarded the Medal of Freedom to Mankiller in 1998.

Woman’s Groundbreaking Accomplishment

Wilma P. Mankiller was the first female chief of the present day Cherokee Nation.


Piecing, applique, beading, and embroidery were used in constructing the quilt.


Commercial fabric, felt and embroidery thread were the materials used.