Cherokee Women Have Mixed Emotions About Barbie Doll Honoring Late Leader Wilma Mankiller

Cherokee Women Have Mixed Emotions About Barbie Doll Honoring Late Leader Wilma Mankiller

Cherokee women expressed their disapproval of the doll's appearance.

Multinational toy manufacturing and entertainment company Mattel faces backlash after releasing a Barbie doll in honor of late Cherokee Nation leader Wilma Mankiller.

The Associated Press reported that Cherokee Nation women expressed mixed emotions around the release of the Barbie doll honoring the chief as a part of Mattel’s “Inspiring Women” series.

Felicia Olaya, one of Mankiller’s children and her only living child, told the news outlet that she had no idea about the Barbie doll until just one week before it was released. Olaya told The AP that she doesn’t have any “issues with the doll” or with “honoring [her] mom in different ways.” Mankiller’s daughter continued, “The issue is that no one informed me, no one told me. I didn’t know it was coming.”

Olaya also said she wouldn’t know how her mother would feel about being made into a plastic Barbie doll if she were still alive. “I heard her once on the phone saying, ‘I’m not Princess Diana, nor am I Barbie,’” Olaya said to The Associated Press. “I think she probably would have been a little conflicted on that because my mom was very humble. She wasn’t the type of person who had her honorary degrees or awards plastered all over the wall. They were in tubs in her pole barn.”

Other Cherokee women expressed their disapproval of the doll’s appearance. Cherokee basket weaver Regina Thompson said the doll’s appearance is far off from what Mankiller was like when she was living.

“Wilma’s name is the only thing Cherokee on that box. Nothing about that doll is Wilma, nothing,” Thompson shared with the news outlet. She also told the outlet that a symbol on the toy’s packaging was used incorrectly, as it translates to “Chicken” rather than “Cherokee.” The outlet reported that Mattel was already aware of the error.

Stacy Leeds, another Cherokee woman and a former Cherokee Nation Supreme Court Justice, is conflicted by the positives and the negatives about the doll.

“Mixed emotions shared by me and many other Cherokee women who have now purchased the product revolve around whether a Wilma Barbie captures her legacy, her physical features, and the importance of centering Cherokee women in decision-making,” Leeds said.

According to the news outlet, the toy company worked with Mankiller’s husband, Charlie Soap, and her friend, Kristina Kiehl, to create the doll. Soap and Kiehl are in charge of the late chief’s estate.

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