"e;Red Bird, Red Power"e; tells the story of one of the most influential and controversial American Indian activists of the twentieth century. Zitkala- a (1876 1938), also known as Gertrude Simmons Bonnin, was a highly gifted writer, editor, and musician who dedicated her life to achieving justice for Native peoples. Here, Tadeusz Lewandowski offers the first full-scale biography of the woman whose passionate commitment to improving the lives of her people propelled her to the forefront of Progressive-era reform movements.
Lewandowski draws on a vast array of sources, including previously unpublished letters and diaries, to recount Zitkala- a s unique life journey. Her story begins on the Dakota plains, where she was born to a Yankton Sioux mother and a white father. Zitkala- a, whose name translates as Red Bird in English, left home at age eight to attend a Quaker boarding school, eventually working as a teacher at Carlisle Indian Industrial School. By her early twenties, she was the toast of East Coast literary society. Her short stories for the "e;Atlantic Monthly"e; (1900) are, to this day, the focus of scholarly analysis and debate. In collaboration with William F. Hanson, she wrote the libretto and songs for the innovative "e;Sun Dance Opera "e;(1913).
And yet, as Lewandowski demonstrates, Zitkala- a s successes could not fill the void of her lost cultural heritage, nor dampen her fury toward the Euro-American establishment that had robbed her people of their land. In 1926, she founded the National Council of American Indians with the aim of redressing American Indian grievances.
Zitkala- a s complex identity has made her an intriguing if elusive subject for scholars. In Lewandowski s sensitive interpretation, she emerges as a multifaceted human being whose work entailed constant negotiation. In the end, Lewandowski argues, Zitkala- a s achievements distinguish her as a forerunner of the Red Power movement and an important agent of change.
Red Bird, Red Power
University of Oklahoma Press
The Life and Legacy of Zitkala-Sa
American Indian Literature and Critical Studies Series