Mattel is taking a bit of heat after revealing its Barbie doll tribute to America’s first female Cherokee tribal chief, Wilma Mankiller — especially because of an embarrassing typo on the box.
Mattel, which had a hit this year with a woke movie based on Barbie, announced a special ceremony Tuesday to unveil the Mankiller doll in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, the Cherokee Phoenix reported in November.
Siyo, Barbie! 👋💖 Come celebrate the Wilma Mankiller Barbie with us!
This celebration includes The Wilma Mankiller Foundation, the Wilma Mankiller family and the Cherokee Nation — all who celebrate the legacy of Wilma and her presence in @Barbie’s Inspiring Women Series. pic.twitter.com/qEp8WMgYTe
— Cherokee Nation (@CherokeeNation) December 3, 2023
Mankiller, who died in 2010, was a groundbreaking leader for Native Americans. Along with being the nation’s first female principal chief, she was an active advocate for health care, improving conditions for her people and restoring a sense of pride in Cherokee history, according to the Phoenix.
She was the recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award, in 1998.
Mankiller often joked about her name and sometimes said it was “well-earned,” though it is a family name that is based on a military title, according to the AP.
The new Barbie doll features Mankiller in a turquoise dress festooned with Cherokee colors of black, red, yellow and blue, wearing black shoes and holding a woven basket.
The doll has won some praise, of course.
“When Native girls see it, they can achieve it, and Wilma Mankiller has shown countless young women to be fearless and speak up for Indigenous and human rights,” Hoskin said. “Wilma Mankiller is a champion for the Cherokee Nation, for Indian Country, and even my own daughter.”
But a typo on the doll’s box has cast a pall on the celebration.
According to the AP, a Cherokee symbol on the packaging that Mattel seems to assume meant “Cherokee” actually says “chicken” in the Cherokee language.
“Regrettably, the Mattel company did not work directly with the tribal government’s design and communications team to secure the official Seal or verify it,” the Cherokee Nation told the AP. “The printing mistake itself does not diminish what it means for the Cherokee people to see this tribute to Wilma and who she was and what she stood for.”
Mattel spokesman Devin Tucker said the company is “discussing options” to fix the problem.
There have been other complaints about the Barbie.
Regina Thompson, a Cherokee basket weaver who grew up near Tahlequah, said the doll doesn’t even look like Mankiller.
An iconic chief of the Cherokee Nation, Wilma Mankiller, inspired countless Native American children as a powerful but humble leader who expanded early education and rural healthcare. https://t.co/clJV1PFw1F
— NBC Bay Area (@nbcbayarea) December 3, 2023
Thompson also said it should have had traditional moccasins instead of black shoes.
“Wilma’s name is the only thing Cherokee on that box,” she said. “Nothing about that doll is Wilma, nothing.”
Mattel is also taking heat for not contacting Mankiller’s daughter, Felicia Olaya, to ask for guidance on the production and design of the doll.
“I have no issues with the doll. I have no issues with honoring my mom in different ways,” Olaya said, though she noted she was not pleased she was not told in advance of the release of the doll. “The issue is that no one informed me, no one told me. I didn’t know it was coming.”
“I’m not sure how she would feel about this,” Olaya added, noting that she remembers her mother saying, “I’m not Princess Diana, nor am I Barbie.”
“I think she probably would have been a little conflicted on that, because my mom was very humble. She wasn’t the type of person who had her honorary degrees or awards plastered all over the wall. They were in tubs in her pole barn,” the former chief’s daughter said.
Still, Olaya said the overall effect is a positive one.
“I have a warm feeling about the thought of my granddaughters playing with a Wilma Mankiller Barbie,” she said.
It seems to be a mixed bag for Mattel with this Barbie effort. They might have a Mankiller, but it does not appear that they killed it in the making.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.