This month, PBS stations around the U.S. and online via PBS Anywhere will air MANKILLER, a documentary created by IWF Members Gale Anne Hurd and Valerie Red-Horse Mohl on Wilma Mankiller, the first female chief of the Cherokee Nation. Check your local listings to figure out when to tune in!
In advance of the film airing, we sat down Director Valerie Red-Horse Mohl, a member of IWF Northern California. Read our conversation below:
Why was making this movie important to you?
As a Native American woman of Cherokee heritage, I have been a fan of Wilma Mankiller’s for many, many years and was obviously drawn to the story of a strong woman role model. Then as we delved deep into the research & development phase, I realized how much more there was to Wilma’s story.
I was drawn to her legacy as a truly positive example that our current leaders need to see and understand. Although I had no idea when we started this project in 2011 that the world would evolve to such a sad place of divisiveness and negativity in politics, it truly seems as if Wilma’s message is being seen and heard through this film at a time when her voice is sorely needed.
What can women today learn from MANKILLER and Wilma’s story?
More than ever, now is the time in our history for people to become involved in their local community, the broader community and the Nation. We cannot sit back and complain about politics and policies and divisiveness; we must be part of the solution. I truly believe that the solution to unity in moving forward will come from our younger people. However, many people believe that in order to make a difference and run for office you have to have money or connections or already be in some position of power. Wilma did not have money or power…in fact at one point she lived in her car. She was also very ill most of her life. She had to fight racism and sexism; she was viewed as someone with nothing, and yet she made a huge and significant difference. Her contributions continue to be felt today.
Her story should empower people to get involved and make a difference, regardless of their current standing or position in life. If she could do it, so can we! So in essence, I’d like to see it serve as a call to action. For example, when we screened in Washington DC, we partnered with some fabulous nonprofit organizations aimed at empowering women to run for office and we saw an increase in the amount of women signing up to run for political office… that’s the kind of response I love to see! I also think there is important dialogue around servant leadership, a return to civility, bipartisan leadership, listening to opposing viewpoints, and incorporating solutions that include everyone’s points of view.