In 1983, Wilma Pearl Mankiller, was elected deputy chief of the Cherokee Nation. In 1987, she was the first modern day woman to be elected the Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation garnering the win with 80% of the votes. Mankiller's time in office lasted over 10 years.
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.
The Cherokee Word for Water is one of the first, if not the first, full length feature film production to hire an American Indian casting director to cast both it's American Indian and non-American Indian cast. It was the forethought and obvious thinking of Producer Paul Heller ("Enter the Dragon") who hired American Indian Michelle Shining Elk to cast this film.
2012 marks the 30th Anniversary of the Bell Waterline Project. Spearheaded by Wilma Mankiller and Charlie Soap the waterline project was the tribe's most ambition and lauded experiment to that date in time.
When Charlie Soap recited his personal heroes several years ago, his wife Wilma was at the top of the list, stating "Wilma's a hard worker and she is very sharp, but most of all she is a caring person. It is that quality of Wilma's that has made a real difference for the Cherokees."