The Cherokee Word for Water is a feature-length motion picture that tells the story of the work that led Wilma Mankiller to become the first modern woman Chief of the Cherokee Nation.The movie is based on the true story of the Bell Waterline Project. Set in the early 1980s in the homes of a rural Oklahoma Cherokee community where many houses lack running water and others are little more than shacks. After centuries of being dehumanized and dispossessed of their land and identity, the people no longer feel they have power or control over their lives or future.Led by Wilma Mankiller (played by Kimberly Guerrero, A&E’s Longmire) and fullblood Cherokee organizer Charlie Soap (played by Mo Brings Plenty, Netflix’s House of Cards), using the traditional concept of gadugi – working together to solve a problem, they inspired the community to trust each other, and reawaken universal indigenous values. Together with a community of volunteers they build nearly twenty miles of waterline to save their community. The successful completion of the waterline led to Wilma’s election as Chief, Wilma and Charlie’s marriage and sparked a movement of similar self-help projects across the Cherokee nation and in Indian country that continues to this day.A long journey to bring this personal story to the screen, first-time filmmaker Charlie Soap directed and produced the film with Kristina Kiehl, women’s rights leader and friend of Wilma and Charlie, serving as Producer. The Cherokee Word for Water was executive produced by Paul Heller (My Left Foot) and Laurene Powell, co-directed by Tim Kelly with cinematography by Lisa Leone, and a screenplay from Tim Kelly and Louise Rubacky. The Cherokee Word for Water was funded through the Wilma Mankiller Foundation to continue her legacy of social justice and community development in Indian Country. Support is tax deductible and profits fund positive portrayals of American Indians and programs for Indian communities across the country.
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