Life Story: Zitkala-Sa2020-04-30T15:38:59-04:00

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Life Story: Zitkala-Sa, aka Gertrude Simmons Bonnin (1876-1938)

Fighting for the Rights of Native People

The story of an activist and composer who fought tirelessly for Native American rights and citizenship.

Zitkala-Sa

Gertrude Kasebier, Zitkala Sa, Sioux Indian and activist, c. 1898. Gertrude Kasebier, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution.

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Zitkala-Sa

Gertrude Kasebier, Zitkala Sa, Sioux Indian and activist, c. 1898. Gertrude Kasebier, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution.

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Suggested Activities

  • Compare the experiences of Zitkala-Sa and her mother with those of Marie Arteshaw and Theresa Green, who also grappled with the challenge of education in the Native American community.
  • Read this life story and that of Edith Maude Eaton. Both women had white fathers and non-white mothers. How were their views of the world and the opportunities afforded to them shaped by their mixed-race heritage?
  • Compare the life stories of Zitkala-Sa and Jovita Idar Juárez. How did each woman work to legitimize her culture and resist xenophobic policies and belief systems? How did the issue of education play a role in each woman’s work?
  • Explore how women in this era used the visual and performing arts to express themselves. Connect Zitkala-Sa’s life story to the artwork of Abastenia St. Leger Eberle and Isadora Duncan and the life stories of Mabel Dodge and Irene Castle in the Armory Show at 100 curriculum guide.
  • Explore how influential female photographer Gertrude Kasebier helped establish photography as a fine art, and what her portraits of Zitkala-Sa told the viewer about her life and identity. Using Kasebier’s photographs as inspiration, students will photograph a series of portraits staged to incorporate aspects of the sitter’s own personal identity.

Themes

ACTIVISM, ART & CULTURE, EDUCATION, LAWS & LEGAL STATUS, INDIGENOUS EXPERIENCES, NATIVE AMERICAN EXPERIENCES, POLITICS & GOVERNMENT, SOCIAL REFORM, WORK

New-York Historical Society Curriculum Library Connections

Source Notes
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