Barbie Doll Commemorating Cherokee Nation Leader Stirs Mixed Reactions


Toymaker Mattel’s release of a Barbie doll honoring late Cherokee Nation chief Wilma Mankiller has sparked both praise and criticism among Cherokee women and individuals from the tribe, as well as discussions on representation and cultural accuracy.

Cherokee Nation Leader and Legacy

Wilma Mankiller, an influential leader of the Cherokee Nation, is being commemorated with a Barbie doll as part of Mattel’s ‘Inspiring Women’ series. As the nation’s first female principal chief, she championed social reform and the preservation of Native heritage, receiving acclaim for her significant contributions to the tribe and Native American communities as a whole.

Barbie Doll Commemoration and Reception

The release of the Barbie doll resembling Mankiller, featuring her in traditional Cherokee attire, has prompted contrasting reactions. While some view it as a fitting tribute and an opportunity to educate the younger generation about Mankiller’s legacy, others, particularly Cherokee women, have raised concerns about the doll’s accuracy and representation of Cherokee culture.

Cherokee Women’s Criticisms and Concerns

Several Cherokee women have expressed disappointment with the doll, citing inaccuracies in the representation of Mankiller’s physical features and traditional Cherokee symbols. They believe that the doll fails to capture Mankiller’s true legacy and are calling for a more culturally sensitive and accurate portrayal in such commemorative items.

Mattel’s Response and Engagement

In response to the criticisms, a Mattel spokesperson acknowledged the concerns raised by the Cherokee community, particularly regarding the inaccurate depiction of Cherokee language symbols and the lack of consultation with the Cherokee Nation in the doll’s development. The company expressed a commitment to address the issues and work towards a more respectful representation of Mankiller’s legacy.

Family’s Perspectives and Reflections

While Wilma Mankiller’s family members have differing views on the Barbie doll, her daughter, Felicia Olaya, expressed gratitude for the recognition of her mother’s accomplishments. However, she also highlighted the importance of ensuring that any tributes are respectful of Mankiller’s humility and accurately portray her impactful legacy.