A carved maple tree statue entitled “Perseverance” designed by five Cherokee artists was unveiled and dedicated Wednesday in the lobby of the Wilma P. Mankiller Health Center in Stilwell.
The statue was commissioned to enhance the entrance of the new 28,000-square-foot Mankiller Health Center addition that opened in 2015.
“We have a new world-class health care facility in Stilwell that is serving the needs of the Cherokee people, in the spirit of the way Chief Mankiller served our tribal nation. Local Cherokee artisans created a beautiful piece commemorating her leadership and we are proud to showcase this new sculpture as it welcomes future patrons and visitors into the clinic’s lobby,” said Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker “It represents the strength and courage of the Cherokee people.”
The nearly 12-foot tall statue is adorned with three turtles exceeding boundaries and expectations by climbing a tree, representing the Cherokee people. The turtles represent striving toward the goals and ideals set by Cherokee ancestors. Stones at the base of the statue represent the difficult paths that the ancestors walked. The statue represents principles of the Cherokee people and former Principal Chief Wilma Mankiller: goals of community, prosperity and working together. At the top of the statue sits a pearl-inlaid butterfly, representing Chief Mankiller, who lived in the Rocky Mountain community near Stilwell, and her hopes for the bright future of the Cherokee people.
A group of Cherokee artists-Devon Tidwell-Isaacs, Daniel Flynn, Roger Cain, Shawna Cain and Reuben Cain-which go by Stilwell I.T., said the statue symbolizes the Cherokee people’s endurance to overcome and ability to prosper.
“It is very important that we realize we need to be strong as a community and that while we face a lot of hardships and difficulties and obstacles that we are perseverant and resilient as a people, and this artwork is a testament to those qualities,” Tidwell-Isaacs said.
The statue also has a carved quote in the trunk of the tree from Chief Mankiller. It says, “The secret of our success is that we never, never give up.”
Wilma P. Mankiller Health Center employees donated rocks from local communities for the base of the statue. The maple tree used for the statue is from Asheville, North Carolina, part of the Cherokee people’s original homeland.