Zitkala-Sa wrote American Indian stories that focused on her personal experience during the early days and transitioning to adulthood. She had a collection of autobiographical and biographical stories that demonstrated her life in American Indian society and showed the complexities of living in two cultures: the Indian and non- Indian culture. Her works communicate her past and that of her people trying to establish identity. The style of writing is filled with emotions and serves as an imagery of the constant oppression and exploitation she went through. The central focus of her writing was to demonstrate struggles that Native Americans went through, as she uses her personal life to describe the life of Native Americans in Sioux Reservation.
The collection of her personal stories and poems portray naturalism and realism because of the circumstances she described. Her popular book American Indian Stories reflects on the cultural influences that took place during her time. She wrote about life experiences such as education in the boarding schools, Upbringing at Sioux, the beadwork, coffee making, and cutting her long hair. She is among the most famous activists who wrote by using tales from her life experience to educate others about culture (Susag, np). In her writings, Native Americans were the main characters because they were faced with poverty and were often exploited. Besides, women were exploited to the extent of being forced to cut their hair. “I cried aloud, shaking my head all the while until I felt the cold blades of the scissors against my neck, and heard them gnaw off one of my thick braids,”(Zitkala-Sa, pg. 63). The American Indian people were placed at the lowest level in society, and there was a lot of disparity in the treatment they received.
Furthermore, she describes memories of her childhood that ranged from bitter to tragic by presenting life in a tribal community. In school, she suffered discrimination and violent punishments, which were meant to instill fear in her. Her stories present a polarized view of the conflict that existed between the Indians and Americans. Her style is unique because she built on her wiring by demonstrating her native culture. She uses her autobiography to communicate the universal experiences that Native Americans go through (Dominguez, pg.32). Zitkala-sa is a reformer who fought to increase the opportunities of Native Americans and strived to protect their culture. She used her frustration experience to pursue her love for writing, which was designed to fight the Native American culture. The society was filled with social, economic, and political classes; the White people wanted the Native Americans to fail in life. Certainly, since her early childhood, there were so many negative forces that were directed towards her failure.
Her writing has demonstrated despair because her life was filled with disappointment, resistance, and corruption. She felt that the Great Spirit did not care even after adopting Christianity, and her awareness of corruption in the education system led her to abandon her role as a teacher. In addition, A Dream of Her Grandfather is a story of a young warfare worker who was in a situation similar to that of Zitkala-sa. The writing emphasized the need to nourish the quality of life for people assimilated in the American culture (Zitkala-sa, pg. 83). However, in her writing “A Warrior’s Daughter,” Zitkala-Sa portrays the outstanding strength of a young woman. She reaffirmed the power of feminity by telling the story of the woman whose lover was captured during the war. Perhaps, the heroine act of the woman exceeds the expectations of the society towards a woman (Dominguez, pg. 97). Zitkala-sa’s relationship with the United States was filled with tension because she consistently raised awareness regarding many issues in the culture of Native Americans. She fought for equality in education, health, and employment because the white people believed American Indians had no place in society. Finally, after her struggle for identity, Natives Americans were granted citizenship in the year 1924. Also, the Indian Right Association designated Zitkala-sa to oversee the rights of the Native Americans by ensuring there were no abuses. She was involved in many committees that were aimed at assisting Native Americans to regain control of their life and have normalcy in their lives.
Zitkala-sa developed her writing by focussing on her real-life experiences to demonstrate the struggles of her culture. Her poems and stories are centered on cultural influences that occurred during her life. She used a style of realism and naturalism to form a collection of autobiographical stories. She uses her personal life stories to show the struggles that Indian Americans went through from early childhood to adulthood. Her main focus is to portray the difficulties her people faced in the long search for identity in the American land. Zitkala-sa uses her personal experience to help people relate to Native American culture. After a struggle, she successfully assisted the Native Americans to secure identity and regain control of their lives.
Dominguez, Susan. “Model Teaching Unit – Language Arts – Secondary Level For American Indian Stories”. National Council Of Teachers Of English., 2013, pp. 1-195., http://www.hardin.k12.mt.us/Downloads/American%20Indian%20Stories.pdf. Accessed 4 Mar 2020.
Susag, Dorothy. “Zitkala-Sa| The Native Voice From Exile”. Scholarworks.Umt.Edu, 2011, https://scholarworks.umt.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=5143&context=etd.
Zitkala-sa. American Indian Stories. 2nd ed., Bison Books, 2003, pp. 1-89.
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