Zitkala-Sa

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Zitkala-Sa

Zitkala-Sa, which means “Red Bird” was born on the Yankton Indian Reservation in South Dakota on February 22, 1876. In 1899, Zitkala-Sa accepted a music teacher position at Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Pennsylvania, the flagship Native American Boarding school in the U.S. Carlisle sent Zitkala-Sa back to the Yankton Indian Reservation in 1900 to gather more students.  She was shocked to find her home in disrepair, vast poverty and white settlers occupying the land given to the Yankton Dakota people by the federal government.  Returning to the school, she began to write stories and essays about Native American life.  She wanted to counterbalance the argument of the Indigenous people being ignorant savages.  She believed fighting against this stereotype would combat the argument for her people needing to be assimilated to white American society. She was editor of American Indian Magazine in 1918-19.  Under the name Gertrude Bonnin, she coauthored (with Charles H. Fabens and Matthew K. Sniffen) the book Oklahoma’s Poor Rich Indians, an Orgy of Graft and Exploitation of the Five Civilized Tribes, Legalized Robbery (1924), which exposed the mistreatment of Native Americans in Oklahoma. In 1926, Zitkala-Sa and her husband founded the National Council of American Indians.  The Council worked to unite tribes across the country in an effort to gain suffrage for all Native Americans.

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