WEEK SIX--Zitkala-Sa: American Indian Stories
Zitkala-Sa (Gertrude Simmons Bonnin)
b. 1876 D. 1938
These stories in the early months of 1900, in the Atlantic Monthly.
Consider the context of publication. How does Zitkala-Sa allude to an
audience? Or does she not? Does it appear that she is reproducing the
conventions – or content expectations – of her audience?
What does she say in her first stories to indict white Americans?
Throughout the first three narratives, and their subsections, Zitkala-Sa
describes her mother carefully. She describes other members of her tribe
and carefully details certain characteristics of her aunt that she
admires. However, descriptions of her mother take, by far, more
page-space than other descriptions. What roles does her mother play in
her young life? Educator? Mother? Father? Friend? Teacher? How
significant is it – or why is it significant – that she ultimately leaves
her mother for the missionary boarding school? What inspires her to do
Consider Zitkala-Sa's deft manipulation of Euro-American referents: red
apples, “wild,” “deed,” trinkets given by missionaries (marbles),
education . . . How does she value/devalue these words or items as
related to their value in white American culture?
Recall Zitkala-Sa’s description of her play with her Dakota playmates, her
bead-craft under her mother’s tutelage, her attempts to fulfill the role
of the hostess to the old Chief, and her enjoyment – above all else – of
traditional legends. In short, what kind of life did she have for her
first eight years? How is she – as if in an instant – dehumanized,
turning into “the captured young of a wild creature,” lurking close to the
bare walls of the train depot “frightened and bewildered”?
Why does her mother ultimately concede to the missionary’s wishes?