Every Day is a Good Day:
Reflections by Contemporary Indigenous Women

by Wilma Mankiller

Fulcrum Publishing, 2011. ISBN 978-1-555-91691-6.
Reviewed by Khadijah A.
Posted on 01/25/2012

Nonfiction: Life Lessons; Nonfiction: Nature/Place/Environment; Nonfiction: Cultural/Gender Focus; Anthologies/Collections

Imagine yourself sitting quietly in a comfortable furnished room. Imagine a circle of women in the center of that room, of all different shapes, sizes, and ages, but with one obvious thing in common: they are all indigenous women, Native American Indians from assorted tribes. Though their languages may be different, their backgrounds and experiences varied, and the specifics of their cultures and traditions unique, they are united in their deep belief that the success of their tribes, as well as of the Earth itself, depends upon preserving their languages and cultures and working to save the land itself.

Now you can stop imagining. To hear what these women have to say, all you have to do is pick up Wilma Mankiller's incredible book, Every Day is a Good Day.

Mankiller interviewed nineteen indigenous women who, in the author's own words, "...made a conscious choice to lead a meaningful life by building on the positive attributes of their communities instead of focusing only on the daunting set of economic and social problems that they deal with daily."

This collection of essays is thematically organized. Mankiller has divided Every Day is a Good Day into chapters based on such subjects as ceremony, womanhood, and love and acceptance. She begins each chapter with a short introduction, providing the reader with a background for the conversation to come, as well as her own personal experience and ideas concerning it. Only then does Mankiller weave the words of the various women together to create a conversation-like atmosphere. Although not together physically when interviewed, Mankiller masterfully brings their words together to create a circle of women talking and sharing their views on life.

Throughout the book, the speakers come back again and again to the idea that what sets Native Americans apart, and is their hope for survival and renewal, is their world-view. They do not see themselves as single units in a world of single units. Instead, they are all connected.to their families, their tribes, their ancestors, the plants and animals that live around them; indeed, with the very Earth itself. The speakers agree that preserving this world-view, which includes their traditional languages and cultures, is crucial to their health as individuals and communities as well as the health of the Earth we all live on.

One of my favorite sections was the one entitled "Womanhood." The women spoke of traditional women within the context of family, community, nation, and care of the planet. They celebrated the important role women have played in traditional societies historically, as well as looking ahead and advising the women concerning the responsibilities they must take on in order to bring about harmony and balance again. Some of women point out that a woman.s identity cannot be separated from the land itself; neither can it be seen in isolation, disconnected from the community, or from the women who came before and taught them how to experience life.

In the last chapter of Every Day is a Good Day, "The Way Home," the women discuss what lies ahead for them, their communities, and the planet. To them, these are not separate entities; rather, they come together to form a greater whole. The three things that keep coming up again and again throughout the chapter are language, culture, and connection to everyone and everything that is a part of the Earth. The women do not deny the huge social and economical issues that Native Americans face. They do, however, strive to look at them in a positive way, searching for solutions rather than floundering in self-pity or anger.

Overall, I enjoyed Every Day is a Good Day very much, especially the contributions by Mankiller herself. She shines through as a strong, deeply caring and committed individual who has faced many battles in many different aspects of her life. This is a book that should be kept near at hand, to be picked up and paged through often, highlighter and pen in hand. We can all learn something from the wisdom and perseverance of these deeply spiritual and highly committed women.

Wilma Mankiller was the former Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation. She passed away on April 6, 2010. Mankiller served 12 years in elective office at the Cherokee Nation, the first two as Deputy Principal Chief followed by 10 years as Principal Chief. She retired from public office in 1995. Among her many honors, Mankiller was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Clinton. For more information, visit her website.

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