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Zitkala-SĂ (Gertrude Simmons Bonnin) Biography

(1876–1938), (Gertrude Simmons Bonnin), Impressions of an Indian Childhood, Old Indian Stories, American Indian Stories

Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Woking Surrey to Æ

Native American Sioux writer and reformer, born on the Yankton Sioux reservation in South Dakota, educated at a Quaker missionary school for American Indians in Wabash, Indiana. She is best known for her powerful autobiography, Impressions of an Indian Childhood (1900), which represents in a richly symbolic style the suffering and alienation of Native Americans who abandoned their tribal culture for a Western, Christian lifestyle that they found ultimately impoverished. Zitkala-Să uses nature as a metaphor to describe her experience of leaving a secure Sioux childhood and losing her tribal identity: ‘I was shorn of my branches, which had waved in sympathy and love for home and friends. Now a cold bare pole I seemed to be, planted in a strange earth.’ Her other publications include collections of autobiography, fiction, and non-fiction, Old Indian Stories (1901) and American Indian Stories (1921). She was an accomplished musician, and her opera Sun Dance (with Willy Hanson; 1902) received national recognition. Zitkala-Să was active in the cause of Indian civil rights through organizations like the Society of American Indians, and the National Council for American Indians which she founded in 1926.

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