This was during the removal period in 1830s. Here in Oklahoma the family was allotted 160 acres of land in eastern Oklahoma at a place called Mankiller Flats, but the land was rugged and it was difficult to eke out a life from it. Thus the family was poor and when Wilmas father inherited the land he found it difficult to give a good life to his family. He managed to make some money from growing strawberries, peanuts, berries and green beans, cutting timber and picking crops when seasonal work was available. Food for the family was from the vegetable garden supplemented by wild game.
Thus when the governments offer to relocate them once more cropped up Charlie Mankiller was tempted by the prospects of a better life. The family did not wish to move, nevertheless they reached San Francisco only to discover that the relocation program promises were not fulfilled and there was no money. Even employment was very often not available. The children did not like California and was homesick. In her autobiography Mankiller: A Chief and her People Mankiller wrote, I experienced my own Trail of Tears when I was a young girl. No one pointed a gun at me or at members of my family.
No show of force was used. It was not necessary. Nevertheless, The United States government through the Bureau of Indian Affairs, was once again trying to settle the Indian problem by removal. I learned through this ordeal about the fear and anguish that occur when you give up your home, your community, and everything you have ever known to move far away to a strange place. I cried for days, not unlike the children who had stumbled down the Trail of Tears so many years before. I wept tears that came from deep within the Cherokee part of me. They were tears from my history, from my tribes past.
They were Cherokee tears. In California Wilma completed her high school and enrolled herself for higher studies. She attended Skyline Junior College and then Francisco State College. It was here that she met her future husband Hector Hugo Olaya. They had two daughters, Felicia born in 1964 and Gina born in 1966. While in college Wilma met the Native Americans who reclaimed the Alcatraz Island. for the Native American people. Many Indians made the bold move to move onto Alcatraz and Wilma got influenced by it. She cherished the thought that her mission in life was to serve her people.
She longed for independence to work for her community and this involvement with the community was the reason for the conflict which arose in her marriage. In 1974, she and Hector Hugo were divorced. In the 1960s there were many social and political movements in America. When Alcatraz was forcefully occupied Wilma Mankiller became aware that the Indians also had rights and these rights had to be protected. She became involved in it and wanted to serve her people to the best of her ability. After Alcatraz she got involved in helping the Pitt River tribe in northern California reclaim their ancestral land.
For seven years she worked for them and this prepared her to return to Oklahoma. When her father passed away in 1971 due to kidney failure Wilma was shattered. It tore through my spirit like a blade of lightening she says in her autobiography. Though the family returned to Oklahoma for the burial of Charlie Mankiller, Wilma returned to California after the funeral. Wilma too soon became a prey to kidney failure and though initially it could be treated, she had to undergo surgery and in 1990 she underwent a kidney transplant.
Her brother Donald donated his kidney for her. In 1976, two years after her divorce she had returned to Oklahama for good. Here she enrolled herself in a graduate course at the University of Arkansas. Wilmas will to live and serve her people can be seen in her determination to get well, once when she was involved in a terrible accident and it was thought that she would not survive. Second time was when she developed a muscle disease known as myasthenia gravis. Her life was threatened but her strong will of survival made her fit again.