Her last name, Mankiller, is a traditional Cherokee military rank, and is "Asgaya-dihi" in Cherokee.
Charley had an allotment of lands, "Mankiller Flats", near Rocky Mountain, Oklahoma. However, the Army, in 1942, took over 45 allotments, in order to expand Camp Gruber. The Mankillers willingly left, under the Bureau of Indian Affairs' Indian Relocation Program. They were moved to San Francisco. They eventually found their way to Daly City.
Ar 17, Wilma married an Ecuadorian college student, Hector Olaya de Bardi. They moved to Oakland, where they had two children, Felecia and Gina.Wilma was going to school, first at Skyline College, and then San Francisco State. She was very involved in the San Francisco Indian Center. In the late 1960's, she joined an activist movement, and participated in the Occupation of Alcatraz Island. She also volunteered for the Pit River Tribe.
In 1977, she divorced Hugo, and moved back to Oklahoma with her two young daughters, wanting to help her own people. She had an entry level job for the Cherokee Nation. By 1983, she was the elected deputy chief. By 1985, she was the first female principal chief. She was elected twice more, before she decided to not run further, largely related to health reasons.
During her time as chief of the Cherokee nation, many problems arose related to her gender. The Cherokee nation was a very male dominated structure. This actually contrasts with traditional Cherokee cultures, where gender equality was emphasized. Wilma took great strides in re-instituting that quality of the Cherokee Nation. She got the men and the women of the nation to work collectively for the common good of the people. She promoted Self Help programs, with projects that included tribally owned businesses, and improving the Cherokee Infrastructure, like providing running water to the communities, and building a hydroelectric facility. She also improved federal-tribal relations. The Cherokee Nation citizens went from 55,000 to 156,000 while she was in office.
Wilma married Charlie Lee Soap, a full-blooded Cherokee traditionalist, whom she had met during her work with the nation. She also won many awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, induction into the Oklahoma Women's Hall of Fame, and the National Womens Hall of Fame. She also wrote two books, her first, "Mankiller: A Chief and Her Nation" became a national best seller. She then co-authored a book called "Every Day is a Good Day: Reflections by Contemporary Indigenous Women". She went on to author, or co-author 4 more books, including a cookbook of traditional Cherokee recipes.