Charlie Soap

Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma


Born March 25, 1945, in Stilwell, Oklahoma, Charlie Soap is a full-blood, bilingual Cherokee. He served in the United States Navy from l965-l969 and received an honorable discharge. He later earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Education from Northeastern State University.

Mr. Soap has dedicated virtually his entire career to working to strengthen the many Cherokee communities in northeastern Oklahoma. Serving under three chiefs, he served as the community service group leader for the Cherokee Nation, overseeing a $100 million budget dedicated to public transit services, roads, bridges and infrastructure projects, environmental health services, self-help housing assistance, youth programs and natural disaster relief.

Due to his accomplishments and innovative approaches to community development in rural communities, Mr. Soap has received numerous awards including the Common Cause public service achievement award and two national certificates of merit from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Mr. Soap has lectured on community development at Cornell University, Arizona State University Law School, the University of Maryland, Tufts University, Indiana State University, the Mayo Clinic, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and numerous other settings.

Following his career with the tribe, Mr. Soap also worked with business education and political leaders to establish the Boys and Girls Club of Tahlequah and served as its founding director. Under Mr. Soap’s leadership, the club operated a comprehensive summer enrichment program and, working with Tahlequah Public Schools, developed the first after-school program in the school system. The collaboration between the Boys and Girls Club and the Tahlequah Public Schools has served as a national model. Mr. Soap served for seven years as the Oklahoma area director of the Christian Children's Fund.

Mr. Soap is the Producer/Director of the film, Cherokee Word for Water, which tells the story of the Bell waterline project, which he and his wife, Wilma Mankiller, led before their marriage of more than 30 years. He is a skilled photographer who is working on a book of photographs of indigenous people in the Amazon. Mr. Soap is a fancy war dancer, an avid golfer, fisherman and cyclist.

Now a tribal elder, Mr. Soap remains an active and authoritative voice on community development. In 2021, the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma enacted The Wilma P. Mankiller and Charlie Soap Water Act to ensure that everyone on the Cherokee Nation Reservation will be free of any barriers to accessing clean, safe water,” Chief Chuck Hoskin announced.

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