Zitkala-Sa (Zitkála-Šá) also known under her missionary-given name, Gertrude Simmons Bonnin, was a writer, editor, translator, musician, educator, and suffragist. Today would have been Zitkala-Sa’s 145th birthday. Among her greatest achievements was getting US citizenship for American Indians through the passing of the Indian Citizenship Act of 1924. Thank you Google Doodle for featuring her!
Before she died at age 61 back on January 26, 1938, she became known as one of the most influential Native American activists of the 20th century. Zitakala-Sa means “Red Bird” in Lakota/Lakȟótiyapi. She was born in 1876 on the Yankton Indian Reservation in South Dakota and was buried under the name Gertrude Simmons Bonnin, in Arlington National Cemetery.
Zitkala-Sa wrote several books on her personal cultural identity struggles that she faced. Although she was born Native America, she was educated in the majority culture and she felt drawn towards it. Later in life, she translated traditional Native American stories and wrote them for an English-speaking readership. She acted as a bridge between the cultures as well as fighting for the rights of fellow Native Americans.
When she worked with William F. Hanson, an American musician, Zitkala-Sa wrote songs for the first American Indian opera, The Sun Dance Opera. She based the music on Sioux and Ute cultural themed and composed them into a romantic musical style.
National Council of American Indians
Not only did she help get Native Americans rights to a US citizenship, she also helped get them other rights that they had long been denied. She was actually the co-founder of the National Council of American Indians in 1926 where she served as president until her death.
Read more about the Zitkala-Sa and her many achievements that helped so many live better lives. Thank you Google for featuring her and thus educating so many of us! Check out one of her many books, American Indian Stories (#affiliate) to learn more about this fascinating culture. As someone born and raised in Europe, I have to admit to knowing very little about Native Americans and I hope to change that now that I am living in the USA!
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