As a young girl, Zitkala-Sa feels free as a bird, and at one with the nature around her. By contrast, her mother always looks sad, as if the weight of the world is on her shoulders. Zitkala-Sa tells her mother that once she turns seventeen years old she will take over the water carrying duties for the household, like her older cousin has done. Her mother makes a throwaway comment, suggesting that the paleface will take their water from them by the time that day comes. She and her mother are supposed to be joining in the celebration but they are waiting for a duck that her mother is roasting to finish cooking. Zitkala-Sa is impatient and cannot understand why her mother needs to cook a duck when they are going to a banquet.
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She described both the deep misery of having her heritage stripped away when she was forced to pray as a Quaker and cut her traditionally long hair. By contrast, she took joy in learning to read and write, and to play the violin. She spent three years there. She was dismayed to realize that, while she still longed for the native Yankton traditions, she no longer fully belonged to them.
In addition, she thought that many on the reservation were conforming to the dominant white culture. She planned to gain more through her education than becoming a housekeeper, as the school anticipated girls would eventually do. Higher education for women was quite limited at the time. While initially feeling isolated and uncertain among her predominantly white peers, she soon proved her oratorical talents again with a speech entitled "Side by Side" in During this time, she began gathering traditional stories from a spectrum of Native tribes, translating them first to Latin and then to English for children to read.
She also conducted debates on the treatment of Native Americans. Her critical appraisal of the American Indian boarding school system and vivid portrayal of Indian deracination were markedly contrasting to the more idealistic writings of most of her contemporaries. She broke off the relationship by August. He had refused to give up his private medical practice in Chicago and relocate with her to the Yankton Indian Agency.
She resented his rigid program of assimilation into dominant white culture and the limitations of the curriculum. It prepared Native American children only for low-level manual work, assuming they would return to rural cultures. In order to care for her ailing mother and gather material for her collection of traditional Sioux stories, she returned to the Yankton Reservation in Of mixed race, he was culturally Yankton and had one-quarter Yankton Dakota ancestry.
The couple lived and worked there with the Ute people for the next fourteen years. Hanson , who taught music at Brigham Young University in Utah. Together, in , they started their collaboration on the music for The Sun Dance Opera, for which Zitkala-Sa wrote the libretto and songs.
She based it on sacred Sioux ritual, which the federal government prohibited the Ute from performing on the reservation. It was the first opera to be co-authored by a Native American.
She continued to write during the following years, but she did not publish. These unpublished writings, along with others including the libretto of the Sun Dance Opera,  were collected and published posthumously in as Dreams and Thunder: Stories, Poems, and the Sun Dance Opera, edited by P. Jane Hafen. Some recounted stories of people she knew or taught, in addition to her own personal story. She countered the contemporary trend that suggested Native Americans readily adopted and conformed to the Christianity forced on them in schools and public life.
These tensions are expressed particularly in her autobiographical works. In her well-known American Indian Stories, for example, she both expresses a literary account of her life and delivers a political message. The narrative expresses her tension between wanting to follow the traditions of the Yankton Dakota while being excited about learning to read and write, and being tempted by assimilation. This tension has been described as generating much of the dynamism of her work.
She and her husband had moved to Washington, D. She published some of her most influential writings, including American Indian Stories , with the Hayworth Publishing House.
Sniffen of the Indian Rights Association. But, however tempestuous this is within me, it comes out as the low voice of a curiously colored seashell, which is only for those ears that are bent with compassion to hear it.
The work influenced Congress to pass the Indian Reorganization Act of , which encouraged tribes to re-establish self-government, including management of their lands. Under this act, the government returned some lands to them as communal property, which it had previously classified as surplus, so they could put together parcels that could be managed.
From to she served as editor for the magazine, as well as contributing numerous articles. Many of her political writings have since been criticized for favoring assimilation.
She called for recognition of Native American culture and traditions, while also advocating US citizenship rights to bring Native Americans into mainstream America. She believed this was how they could gain political power and protect their cultures. Hanson , who taught at Brigham Young University. She wrote the libretto and songs. She also played Sioux melodies on the violin, and Hanson used this as the basis of his music composition.
It was significant for adapting the Native American oral musical tradition to a written one. Its debut was met with critical acclaim. Few works of Native American opera since have dealt so exclusively with Native American themes. Its publicity credited only William F. Hanson as composer. During her time on the Uintah-Ouray reservation in Utah, she joined the Society of American Indians , a progressive group formed in It was dedicated to preserving the Native American way of life while lobbying for the right to full American citizenship.
She edited its journal American Indian Magazine from to Such critics believe that Native Americans have lost cultural identity as they have become more part of mainstream American society. She began to criticize practices of the BIA, such as their attempt at the national boarding schools to prohibit Native American children from using their native languages and cultural practices. The couple and their son relocated to Washington, D.
In the Indian Citizenship Act was passed, granting US citizenship rights to most indigenous peoples who did not already have it. About two-thirds of Native Americans were already citizens by the implementation of land allotment and other measures.
She was the major figure in those years. Her early work was largely disregarded after the organization was revived in under male leadership. She helped initiate a government investigation into the exploitation of Native Americans in Oklahoma and the attempts being made to defraud them of drilling rights and leasing fees for their oil-rich lands.
The article exposed several corporations that had robbed and even murdered Native Americans in Oklahoma to gain access to their lands. Roosevelt administration. It returned management of their lands to Native Americans. She encouraged them to support the Curtis Bill , which she believed would be favorable for Indians. Though the bill granted Native Americans US citizenship, it did not grant those living on reservations the right to vote in local and state elections.
Through her activism, Zitkala-Sa was able to make crucial changes to education, health care, legal standing of Native American people and the preservation of Indian culture.
American Indian Stories Summary
Her mother would draw water from this river for household use. Recounting a conversation with her mother on one of their return trips from the river, Zitkala-Sa told her that when she is older like her year-old cousin Warca-Ziwin, she will come and get water for her. Young Zitkala-Sa inquires about the palefaces, to which her mother responds, "My little daughter, she is a sham, a sickly sham! In this story, Zitkala-Sa shares with the readers how, "I loved best the evening meal, for that was the time old legends were told. I was always glad when the sun hung low in the west, for then my mother sent me to invite the neighboring old men and women to eat supper with us. The atmosphere must be set, and in due time, the elders would tell the stories of their people, and pass on the Legends to the children of the tribe.
She described both the deep misery of having her heritage stripped away when she was forced to pray as a Quaker and cut her traditionally long hair. By contrast, she took joy in learning to read and write, and to play the violin. She spent three years there. She was dismayed to realize that, while she still longed for the native Yankton traditions, she no longer fully belonged to them. In addition, she thought that many on the reservation were conforming to the dominant white culture. She planned to gain more through her education than becoming a housekeeper, as the school anticipated girls would eventually do. Higher education for women was quite limited at the time.