The Cherokee Word for Water

Dramatizing a pivotal community project in rural Oklahoma

2013 | Running Time: 92 minutes | Rating: PG

THE CHEROKEE WORD FOR WATER is based on the true story of the Bell Waterline Project. The drama is set in the early 1980s in a rural Oklahoma Cherokee community where many houses lacked running water. Led by Wilma Mankiller and Cherokee organizer Charlie Soap, the community of volunteers built nearly 20 miles of waterline to save their community. The successful completion of the waterline, using the traditional concept of gadugi — working together to solve a problem — led to Wilma’s election as Chief, Wilma and Charlie’s marriage and sparked a movement of similar self-help projects across the Cherokee Nation and in Indian Country that continues to this day. THE CHEROKEE WORD FOR WATER played widely at festivals, movie theaters, schools, libraries, and museums around the country. Filmmakers: Tim Kelly, Director; Charlie Soap, Director

Western Heritage Awards 2014: Bronze Wrangler – Theatrical Motion Picture


“The Cherokee Word for Water will hopefully inspire similar collective efforts in other communities, and demonstrate the necessity of strong women in positions of power in our society.”

MS. MAGAZINE

Tags: Race and Ethnicity, Poltics, History, Gender