The University of South Carolina’s McKissick Museum will host a screening of “The Cherokee Word for Water” at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 18, in honor of Native American Heritage Day. The film tells the story of Wilma Mankiller, the first female chief of the Cherokee Nation. Mankiller’s husband, Charlie Soap, directed the film and will participate in a conversation with the audience after the screening.
The film follows Mankiller and Soap’s fight to bring running water to a rural Cherokee community in the early 1980s. Mankiller would go on to be elected deputy chief and then chief of the Cherokee Nation, which had a largely male-dominated government at the time. Mankiller was highly regarded by those in and outside of the Cherokee and Native American communities during and after her time as chief. She also improved relations between the Cherokee Nation and the U.S. government.
Native American Heritage Day will also be celebrated at the S.C. State House starting at noon Tuesday.The celebration is sponsored by the S.C. Commission for Minority Affairs and the Eastern Cherokee, Southern Iroquois & United Tribes of South Carolina Inc. A resolution was adopted by the General Assembly in 2013 to establish an annual Native American Heritage Day in South Carolina each Nov. 18.
About 0.5 percent of South Carolina’s residents identify as Native American today, but about 30 different tribes, including the Cherokees, lived in what is now the Palmetto State before British settlement.