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The Cherokee Word for Water (2013)

PG | | Drama | 2013 (USA)
The work that led Wilma Mankiller to become the first modern female Chief of the Cherokee Nation.


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Wilma Mankiller
Charlie Soap (as Moses Brings Plenty)
Johnson Soap
Darryl Tonemah ...
Chief Ross Swimmer
Deputy Jackson
Irene Mankiller
Kaylea Dreadfulwater ...
Jamie Hair ...
Ben Livingston ...
Jeff Anderson ...
Don Musgrove
Oren Lyons ...
Judge / Grandpa
Charlie's Boss
Levi Mullen ...


Set in the early 1980s, The Cherokee Word for Water begins in the homes of a small town in rural Oklahoma where many houses lack running water and others are little more than shacks. The movie is told from the perspective of Wilma Mankiller and full-blood Cherokee organizer Charlie Soap who join forces to battle opposition and build a 16-mile waterline system using a community of volunteers. In the process, they inspire the townspeople to trust each other, to trust their way of thinking, and to spark a reawakening of the universal indigenous values of reciprocity and interconnectedness. This project also inspired a self-help movement in Indian Country that continues to this day. The movie is dedicated to Wilma Mankiller's vision, compassion and incredible grace. Written by PP

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Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG for thematic elements and some language


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Release Date:

2013 (USA)  »

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Did You Know?


Charlie Soap is known as a quiet but highly effective "Cherokee powerhouse". Soap has focused his efforts on development projects for several low-income Cherokee communities. He also directs a community-based program designed to assist needy children in rural areas. And to this day, he is still helping communities build waterlines. At the time of filming "The Cherokee Word for Water", Soap was simultaneously working on a 30+ mile pipeline. See more »

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User Reviews

A tribute film to Wilma Mankiller...
13 October 2016 | by (Mono, Ontario - Canada) – See all my reviews

I liked this film because it is a tribute film to the real Wilma Mankiller who was such an instrumental leader for her Cherokee folks. When she conducted the water project, there were those who didn't want the project to be completed since there were (and still are) many racists who didn't want to co-operate with them. It was always an obstacle after the next with it. Although the project was completed, it didn't go through without any hitches. There were many problems that went with it, like promises by equipment companies that weren't kept, leasing companies who threatened the People that they would lose their licenses if they didn't do things the non-Cherokee groups told them to do. The Tribal Council had many non-Cherokees making decisions for the People that wasn't right. It was unfair that the project took longer to complete than usual. Anyways... it's really unfortunate that Mankiller passed on way too young because she was a real dynamic leader for her folks.

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