The Native American Writer Zitkala-Sa

Updated on November 13, 2018
ziyena profile image

An Arts, Literature and History Buff, Humanities Major, Published Indie Writer, Avid Photographer, and World Foodie & Travel Enthusiast

Native American Writer Zitkala-Sa:  Photograph  by Joseph Keiley, b.1869 - 1914
Native American Writer Zitkala-Sa: Photograph by Joseph Keiley, b.1869 - 1914 | Source

"My heart and I lie small upon the earth like a grain of throbbing sand. Drifting clouds and tinkling waters, together with the warmth of a genial summer day, bespeak with eloquence the loving Mystery round about us." — Zitkala-Sa

Beauty and Intellect

Not only was she known for her sharp intellect, she was also known for her earthy beauty, an old soul and lover of nature, and champion of truth. Though she was best known as a gifted writer, she pursued other talents, excelling as a musician (pianist and violinist), an editor, teacher, and an outspoken political activist.

She was born Gertrude Bonnin, in 1876, a third child and full-blooded Yankton Sioux, but in time, to most, she was known as Zitkala-Sa (Red Bird), a Native American icon, whom mother time has not forgotten nor has she lost, a daughter of the earth.

Accomplished Writer and Violinist Zitkala-sa with her violin, 1898
Accomplished Writer and Violinist Zitkala-sa with her violin, 1898 | Source

Troubling Odds

As a Native American growing up during the mid to latter 19th century, Gertrude had several troubling odds stacked against her young life. Still perceived as an indigenous amongst the culture back east, in the eyes of the white man, she was in no position of respect or social standing.

Compounding to this fact, her European-American father abandoned the family while she was still a toddler. When she grew into adolescence, her mother, Ellen Tate, thinking of her daughter's future in a pale-face world, she sent her East so that she might get a white man's education. Though she suffered great loss and disadvantage, Gertrude found a way to overcome her differences.

Map of Siouan Reservations
Map of Siouan Reservations | Source

Yankton Sioux Tribe

The Yanktonai, or the Yankton, also known as the Western Dakota "Middle Sioux" were Native American people originally from the Mississippi Region, which during the 18th century, resided along the Minnesota River area.

By 1860, the Yankton tribe had given up millions of acres to the U.S. government and moved on its present-day reservations in South Dakota.


"Zitkala-Sa" reading by windowlight; "Zitkala-Sa" in pencil on verso ..Credit: Gertrude Kasebier (Smithsonian Institution)
"Zitkala-Sa" reading by windowlight; "Zitkala-Sa" in pencil on verso ..Credit: Gertrude Kasebier (Smithsonian Institution) | Source

A White Man's Education

Gertrude's first experience in a white man's school was at a Quaker Missionary School for Indians, in Wabash, Indiana. After several years of primary and secondary education, she graduated and then eventually moved on to Pennsylvania where she taught music at the Carlisle Indian Industrial School. Though she was accepted by her white peers, Gertrude remained a recluse, not entirely happy with her station in life. She often yearned for her life back home on the plains, which in turn inspired her to write about her native experiences.

To combat her internal yearnings for home while at Carlisle, Gertrude finished a compilation of various short stories and autobiographical essays with Harper's Weekly and The Atlantic Monthly magazines. The articles focused on her life as a Native American living on the plains and her struggle to identify in a white man's world.

Literary Career

For a woman, no less a Native American, Gertrude Bonnin maintained a highly prolific career in writing. Most of her work centered around autobiographical and co-authored works or retold Dakota stories that mainly focused on life among the Sioux such her 1901 publication of Old Indian Legends, a collection of traditional folklore.

Provided below are a few links and a table, distinguishing the various works and accomplishments of Gertrude Bonnin.

Example of Various Works:  Old Indian Legends Zitkala Sa
Example of Various Works: Old Indian Legends Zitkala Sa | Source

"A wee child toddling in a wonder world... I prefer to their dogma my excursions into the natural gardens where the voice of the Great Spirit is heard in the twittering of birds, the rippling of mighty waters, and the sweet breathing of flowers. If this is Paganism, then at present, at least, I am a Pagan."

— Zitkala-Sa

Noted Works and Accomplishments

American Indian Stories in 1921 with the Hayworth Publishing House
An influential pamphlet with Matthew K. Sniffen of the Indian Rights Association
"A Warrior's Daughter", published in 1902 in Volume 4 of Everybody's Magazine
Oklahoma’s Poor Rich Indians: An Orgy of Graft and Exploitation of the Five Civilized Tribes, Legalized Robbery (1923
Atlantic Monthly "An Indian Teacher Among Indians" published in Volume 85 in 1900
Harper's Monthly "Soft-Hearted Sioux" appeared in the March 1901 issue, Volume 102
An influential pamphlet, with Charles H. Fabens of the American Indian Defense Association
Atlantic Monthly "Impressions of an Indian Childhood" and "School Days of an Indian Girl" published in Volume 85 in 1900
Created and researched for the Indian Welfare Committee of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs

Red Bird Sings

Numerous Legacies

Not only was Gertrude Bonnin a well-known poet and writer, she was also known for many other accomplishments, namely:

  • As a musician, in 1910, Bonnin helped write in collaboration with composer William F. Hanson, The Sun Dance Opera, which premiered in 1913, at Orpheus Hall, in Vernal, Utah.
  • The Broadway Theatre ran The Sun Dance Opera in 1938, but unfortunate as it was, the billboard only featured William F. Hanson as the only composer.
  • As a member of the Society of American Indians, she dedicated her time by fighting Native American rights to gain full citizenship.
  • •In 1916, she became an outspoken voice for the Society of American Indians as the groups elected Secretary she pushed for an investigation into corrupt practices by the Bureau of Indian Affairs against the abuse of Native American children.
  • In 1921, Bonnin joined General Federation of Women's Clubs, an organization who promoted women's rights.
  • •In the Scientific community, Bonnin was recognized by giving her an honorary title, naming a crater after the Native American authoress on the planet Venus.
  • Named a 1999 Honoree by the National Women's History Project.
  • •Upon her death, Gertrude Bonnin was buried in Washington DC at the prestigious Arlington National Cemetery.

Contemporary 1913 newspaper article about The Sun Dance opera, written by Zitkala-Sa.
Contemporary 1913 newspaper article about The Sun Dance opera, written by Zitkala-Sa. | Source

Your Favorite Female Native American Personality?

See results

Cited Sources

  • Lewandowski, Tadeusz. "Red Bird, Red Power: The Life and Legacy of Zitkala-Ša" (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2016)
  • Zitkala-Ša. "Old Indian Legends" (May 16, 2012) Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • The Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica. Zitkala-Sa (2018)

© 2013 Ziyena Brazos

Comments

Submit a Comment

No comments yet.

working

This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, owlcation.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://owlcation.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

Show Details
Necessary
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Features
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Marketing
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Statistics
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)