Wilma and I got a chance to visit on her trip to Minneapolis a few years ago.

Wilma Mankiller, the first elected woman chief of my nation, walked on this morning. All of us who were inspired by her beautiful strength, her profound love for the Cherokee nation and its citizens, her passion and determination to make life better for all Indian people will miss her terribly. When I look at my daughters confidently walking the path to adulthood, sure of who they are as young native women, I thank Wilma for her example and her inspiration. A lot of people talk about the concept of “servant leadership.” Wilma lived that life.

Here is what President Obama had to say about Wilma’s passing:

I am deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Wilma Mankiller today. As the Cherokee Nation’s first female chief, she transformed the Nation-to-Nation relationship between the Cherokee Nation and the Federal Government, and served as an inspiration to women in Indian Country and across America. A recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, she was recognized for her vision and commitment to a brighter future for all Americans. Her legacy will continue to encourage and motivate all who carry on her work. Michelle and I offer our condolences to Wilma’s family, especially her husband Charlie and two daughters, Gina and Felicia, as well as the Cherokee Nation and all those who knew her and were touched by her good works.

And here is a statement from our current chief, Chad Smith:

Our personal and national hearts are heavy with sorrow and sadness with the passing this morning of Wilma Mankiller. We feel overwhelmed and lost when we realize she has left us, but we should reflect on what legacy she leaves us. We are better people and a stronger tribal nation because her example of Cherokee leadership, statesmanship, humility, grace, determination and decisiveness.

Click here for a tribute from the Cherokee Nation.

Below is a video by my friend Paul DeMain, interviewing another good friend, Mark Trahant, about his memories of Wilma. The pictorial essay at the end of the video, featuring music from the Cherokee Nation Choir, left me with a lump in my throat. Nice work, Paul, Kim and all the rest at News From Indian Country.

Finally, I wanted to leave you with Wilma’s view of her legacy. Her words were spot on, as always.

I want to be remembered as the person who helped us restore faith in ourselves.

wado atsilvsgi ale donadagohvi. tohiyi.