American Indian Stories, Legends, and Other Writings
Zitkala-Sa wrestled with the conflicting influences of American Indian and white culture throughout her life. Raised on a Sioux reservation, she was educated at boarding schools that enforced assimilation and was witness to major events in white-Indian relations in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Tapping her troubled personal history, Zitkala-Sa created stories that illuminate the tragedy and complexity of the American Indian experience. In evocative prose laced with political savvy, she forces new thinking about the perceptions, assumptions, and customs of both Sioux and white cultures and raises issues of assimilation, identity, and race relations that remain compelling today.
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The Battle of Little Bighorn is the most famous battle in the Great Sioux War of 1876, a war in which the Lakota Sioux and Northern Cheyenne peoples fought against the United States. The Native populations sought to protect their land against gold prospectors who were encroaching on Native American lands in an attempt to secure riches for themselves. (This annotation contains an image)
Why did Zitkala-Sa claim to be related to Sitting Bull?
W.E.B. DuBois was an African-American activist, who did not know Zitkala-Sa. Why does the author of this introduction include a quotation from him in this paragraph?
The Sun Dance ritual varied from tribe to tribe, but generally involved dancing, chanting, drum-playing, and pipe-smoking. Some tribes also engaged in ritual piercing, including a ceremony in which young warriors were bound to a pole with a rawhide strip pierced through their chests. Lack of understanding of Native culture led many Americans and Europeans to fear the ceremony and classify it as barbaric. (This annotation contains an image)
Can you think of other examples of aspects of a person's identity which are "performative"?
As Zitkala-Sa is the author of this book, the stories, editorials, and speeches contained within present her viewpoint. What is the effect of including a nonfiction introduction which provides background on Zitkala-Sa and her politics?
In Genesis, Adam and Eve (the first man and woman) are tempted by a serpent to eat the forbidden fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. Once the pair eats the fruit, they are cast out of the garden and into a more difficult, sin-filled world. Although it is never explicitly called so in the Bible, popular culture has turned the forbidden fruit into an apple. (This annotation contains an image)
According to the author of this introduction, which of the following does the reader need to understand In order to recognize the barbarism described in the boarding school stories contained in this volume?
The image below depicts the same boy, Tom Torino, before and after enrolling in a Native American boarding school. How do the two pictures below relate to the public understandings of Native Americans described in this paragraph? (This annotation contains an image)
Based on the description contained here, the story of "The Soft-Hearted Sioux" will contain which of the following literary devices?
I - OLD INDIAN LEGENDS
The Sioux Indians are a tribe of Native Americans who primarily resided in the Dakotas, Minnesota, and Iowa. The tribe historically consisted of seven nations; today, three major divisions (the most famous being the Lakota Sioux) are recognized. (This annotation contains an image)
Which of the following is the reason why Zitkala-Sa has written these stories down?
Iktomi is a trickster figure- a character in folklore who is both cunning and mischievous. The trickster figure is sometimes depicted as an animal, and often uses his intellect to cause trouble. The point of a trickster tale is to promote certain values and warn against harmful vices. Keep an eye out for Iktomi's vices; what characteristics land him in trouble? (This annotation contains an image)
In this story, both the ducks and Iktomi end up suffering because of their
One characteristic of Native American culture is great respect and reverence for nature. How is this characteristic reflected in this story?
Did you know that you can look up any word in the text of the book or the text of the questions and answers? Just click (or press on mobile devices) the word you want to define and hold until the blue text selector pops up. When you release, a define option will appear. Since it's so easy to look up words, make sure you use this feature frequently... Is there a word on this page you need to look up?
Which of the following is the most accurate theme statement for "Iktomi and the Muskrat"?
A fable is a short story which either contains a moral or teaches a lesson. The most famous fables in American culture are Aesop's fables, such as "The Tortoise and the Hare." How are the morals of the fables in this collection different from Aesop's fables? (This annotation contains an image)
Which of the following statements about Iktomi is not true?
In this story, Badger is the hero. Which of the following is not a characteristic displayed by Badger?
"The Ugly Bear" is not mentioned again in this story, and is simply lumped in with all of his brothers and sisters by the end. Why point or theme might Zitkala-Sa be trying to make by introducing this character?
In the Sioux tradition, the term "Great Spirit" is used to refer to the Supreme Being, to whom the Native Americans appeal for help. Native Americans believe the Great Spirit is present in the material world. In the Sioux tradition, the Great Spirit is also sometimes referred to as "Grandfather," highlighting the personal relationship between the people and the divine. (This annotation contains an image)
Describe The Avenger. Who is he, and what is his relationship to the other characters?
Both Iktomi and The Avenger are clever Native American characters, but Iktomi is self-serving, while The Avenger is generous, creating a noticeable contrast between the two. Which of the following literary terms describes this type of character pair?
The image below depicts the avenger's fate. Did the description in the story give you an adequate understanding of Iktomi's curse? What do you notice about Zitkala-Sa's use of imagery and detail? (This annotation contains an image)
This line contains an example of a simile. Click the video below for the definition of a simile. What does this line tell us about expectations for Native American women? (This annotation contains a video)
Use the "define" tool to look up the word dumb. Which of the provided definitions fits in this context?
Although Iktomi usually teaches the lesson in his folk tales, sometimes the other characters' actions also lead to important morals. What lesson did Patkaua learn?
This description of nature makes use of personification- a device defined in the video below. Considering what you know about Native American culture, why might they use ample personification in their writings? (This annotation contains a video)
The link below will take you to a brief summary of the Greek myth of Persephone, the Queen of the Underworld. Read the summary in order to answer the next question. (This annotation contains a link)
What similarities exist between the Greek myth of Persephone and "The Toad and the Boy"? What are the most important differences?
The picture below depicts several women dressed for a modern Lakota Nation powwow. What do you picture the outfits described in this story to look like? (This annotation contains an image)
Which of the following adjectives does not describe the behavior of the Native peoples described in this short story?
At the beginning of the story, Manutin warned his grandfather to beware the trickster Iktomi. Ironically, what similarities exist between Iktomi and Manutin?
Which of the following aphorisms is the best statement of this story's moral?
A Sioux bladder- also called a bladder bag- is a sack made from the bladder of an animal such as a buffalo or deer. Native Americans would use the bladder to hold water like a canteen. (This annotation contains an image)
Old Indian Legends Quiz
Which of the following statements about Native American folk tales is most accurate?
Notice how the stories in this section differ from the fables found in the previous section: they are told in the first person, and involve human characters only. What similarities still exist between these two story types?
Use the "define" tool to look up the word defrauded. Which of the following words is the best synonym for this word as it is used in this context?
Native American beadwork is often complex, and typically can be found on moccasins, clothing, and various accessories. Below is a picture of some beaded moccasins, like the ones the narrator's mother is working on. (This annotation contains an image)
Based on the narrator's behavior, we can infer that all of the following are important values in Native American culture except
Why does the old grandfather eat the food served to him by the narrator?
Notice the way the narrator describes fog in this paragraph. How is the Native American characteristic of respect for nature mirrored in this description? (This annotation contains an image)
"The iron horse" is another term for a train. Why might Native Americans use this term?
This line contains an example of
Explain how the narrator's understanding of the telephone poles illustrates the differences between the world of the Native Americans and the world of the "palefaces."
In the video below, a woman who is an elder in the Ojibwe Native American tribe explains the Native American preference for long, uncut hair. Why is this moment so traumatic for the narrator? (This annotation contains a video)
In response to the treatment she receives, the narrator becomes more __________ the longer she is with the palefaces.
Native American boarding schools tended to have an overall negative and traumatic effect on the young Native Americans who attended the schools. Instead of simply exposing the students to English and white American customs, the schools oftentimes forbade students to speak in their native language or acknowledge their culture whatsoever. These assimilation efforts had devastating effects on the young students, resulting in young people who did not know their own culture, but were not fully accepted in Caucasian society. (This annotation contains an image)
Describe the effect the boarding school has on the narrator. How does she change as a result of her experiences?
Note the phrasing of this line. How is the narrator's attitude about her culture changing? Why?
Many terms from Native American culture, such as this one, are used as slurs or are considered offensive when used in certain contexts. Today, many professional sports teams are facing controversy because of their use of Native American names as mascots. Click below to read an article on the controversy surrounding the name of Washington's football team, the Redskins. (This annotation contains a link)
This line is an example of
Which of the following does the narrator's mother likely think the man is?
The narrator has become more of an atheist than she previously was. Why does she deny the existence of the Great Spirit?
These lines contain an extended metaphor: a comparison between two dissimilar items that continues at length and finds many points of comparison between the items. Why does a tree make a good item to compare the narrator to?
Explain the religious views of the narrator of "The Great Spirit."
A medicine man is a respected leader in a Native American tribe. His job is to invoke the assistance of the spirits of the Spirit World for a variety of purposes, from a fruitful hunt to a speedy recovery from illness. (This annotation contains an image)
Which of the following conflicts is the primary one faced by the Native American characters- including this narrator- in this book?
Whenever something is not explicitly stated in the text, you must use the details to make an inference. From the descriptions in this paragraph, what do you infer happened?
Which of the following accurately states the narrator's thoughts about religion at his time of death?
The Native American justice system displayed in this story is vastly different from the one employed in the United States today. What major differences do you notice? (This annotation contains an image)
Which of the following Native American beliefs about the afterlife is not revealed in this story?
Dancing is an incredibly important part of Native American culture. Depending on the tribe, different styles of dance are used to commemorate different occassions or to honor people of importance in the tribe. Click the video below for a short sample of Native American dances from a tribe located in Oklahoma. (This annotation contains a video)
The majority of this story takes place when Tusee is a young woman. Which of the following is the most likely reason the author begins the story with Tusee as a child?
This line contains an example of irony. Click below for a definition of irony. What other ironies exist in this story? (This annotation contains a video)
Based on evidence found in this and the other stories in this volume, which of the following statements about Native American women is not true?
This story is much shorter than the preceding ones, and seems out of place, considering its focus on the world outside of Native American culture. What message might Zitkala-Sa be communicating by including this story?
Zitkala-Sa experiments with many different types of point of view in this collection. This particular story is written in third-person omniscient. What knowledge do you gain from the use of this point of view which you would not have received if it were written in third-person limited?
The word "graft" is a surgical term which refers to the process of transplanting a portion of tissue from one person to another for the purpose of growth and healing. The young men in this story are different types of grafters- they help secure land from the government for Native Americans, but do so by taking it from other Native peoples.
Why doesn't Chief High Flier deliver his letter?
Click the link below to read "The New Colossus," the poem by Emma Lazarus which is inscribed on the Statue of Liberty. Use this poem to answer the next question. (This annotation contains a link)
Explain the irony of "The New Colossus" in light of what Zitkala-Sa has depicted so far in her book.
Chief Powhatan and Captain Christopher Newport had a very contentious relationship. In addition to the story told here, another anecdote illustrates the tension between the two: Newport attempted to make Powhatan wear a crown in order to symbolically make him into a servant for the English crown. When Powhatan refused to kneel to be crowned, Newport ordered several of his men to forcibly wrestle Powhatan to the ground in order to complete the ceremony. (This annotation contains an image)
In the next few pages, Zitkala-Sa switches from a fictional to a nonfictional standpoint, presenting real excerpts from historical documents pertaining to Native Americans. What is the purpose of closing the "American Indian Stories" portion of this book with this chapter?
"American Indian Stories" Quiz
How does this poem mirror the themes found in "The School Days of an Indian Girl" and "An Indian Teacher Among Indians"?
In 1902, Zitkala-Sa married Raymond Bonnin, who worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Shortly after their marriage, he was stationed to the Uintah and Ouray Indian Reservation in Utah. For the next fourteen years, Zitkala-Sa and her husband lived and worked with the Ute people. (This annotation contains an image)
The first chapter of the Society of American Indians was founded in Ohio in 1911. The society's goals included improving health, education, and civil rights for American Indians. The society also placed special attention on rehabilitating the public image of Native Americans, encouraging people to look beyond the "cowboys and Indians" stereotype. (This annotation contains an image)
Despite the fact that many other people help the Native people as well, why does Zitkala-Sa also volunteer her services?
Click below to listen to "My Country 'Tis of Thee," the work Zitkala-Sa is parodying in this selection. (This annotation contains a video)
In your opinion, why did Zitkala-Sa choose to parody this song when writing this piece? What effect is she hoping to achieve?
How does this gift to Chipeta mirror the government's treatment of Native Americans in general?
Which characteristic of Native American culture does Bright Eyes display?
As this piece was written in 1918, the struggle referred to is World War I.
According to Zitkala-Sa, why does the SAI have mixed feelings about American involvement in World War I?
During WWI, propaganda posters were used for everything from asking women to help at home to encouraging families to ration food. Most of the soldiers pictured in these advertisements were white, despite the number of Native and African-American soldiers who served as well. (This annotation contains an image)
Zitkala-Sa argues that Native Americans must be more __________ in their pursuit of education options for their children.
At the conclusion of World War I, the major powers involved in the war met in France to sign the Treaty of Versailles. American President Woodrow Wilson sought a fourteen point plan, including the founding of a League of Nations to keep the peace established by the treaty. (This annotation contains an image)
The man's response to Zitkala-Sa's line of questioning indicates
Pocahontas was not actually a princess, but was presented in London society as such since her father was thought by the English to be a ruler of a great empire. She was well-received in London society, and even charmed King James- despite the fact that she had no idea who he was when she first met him. (This annotation contains an image)
What did the crowning of Chief Powhatan mean from the English point of view? What did it mean from Powhatan's point of view?
William Wirt Hastings was a US Congressman from 1915 to 1935. Hastings was raised on a Cherokee reservation; he both graduated from a Cherokee school and taught in one during his early career. (This annotation contains an image)
Use the "define" tool to look up the definition of desultory. Which of the following is the best synonym for desultory?
Prior to World War I, Angel DeCora Dietz was the best known Native American artist. Her paintings are well-regarded for both their technical proficiency and their emotional depth. (This annotation contains an image)
In this passage, Zitkala-Sa argues for which of the following?
In this prayer to the Great Spirit, the speaker is most thankful for
In this line, Zitkala-Sa uses a simile to compare language to a coat. What does she mean when she says language "is a convenience"?
What does Zitkala-Sa mean when she says Native Americans are "scattered to the four winds"?
IV - POETRY, PAMPHLETS, ESSAYS, AND SPEECHES
Some Native American tribes use peyote for spiritual purposes. When ingested, peyote has psychoactive properties, and causes the user to hallucinate. (This annotation contains an image)
Samoset was the first Native American to make contact with the Pilgrims in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Because he had been taken by a group of English sailors from his original home, Samoset was able to converse with the Pilgrims in English. (This annotation contains an image)
In making her argument for deeper respect for Native Americans, which of the following types of rhetorical appeals does Zitkala-Sa use?
In some Native American tribes, an owl is considered a symbol of doom, destruction, or death. Seeing one in the daytime is considered to be a sure omen of death. (This annotation contains an image)
The reference to Judas in this line is an example of
The description of the Missouri River in this paragraph makes ample use of which of the following devices?
How would you describe Zitkala-Sa's tone in this passage? Why does she employ this tone?
The government refuses to make legislation against peyote on the grounds of the separation of church and state. Zitkala-Sa __________ this argument.
Native Americans historically have had many problems with alcoholism, leading to government intervention. Today, 12% of Native American deaths are classified as alcohol-related. (This annotation contains an image)
Pine Ridge Indian Reservation (mentioned by name at the end of this selection) is a 3468 square mile Lakota Native American reservation located in North Dakota. Today, the resident population is estimated to be around 30000 people- approximately 8 people per square mile. (This annotation contains an image)
Which of the following terms best represents how Native Americans are regarded by their government, according to Zitkala-Sa?
Which of the following is the best explanation of the irony contained in these lines?
"A Dakota Ode to Washington" is a prose poem, read by Zitkala-Sa at the dedication of a plaque from South Dakota at the Washington Monument in Washington, DC. The same year Zitkala-Sa wrote this piece, poet Carl Sandburg wrote his poetic tribute to the monument, "Washington Monument by Night." Click below to read Sandburg's poem, and use it to answer the next question. (This annotation contains a link)
Compare and contrast the two poems, "A Dakota Ode to Washington" and 'Washington Monument by Night." What similarities in message do you notice? What differences?
California is well-known for its redwood trees, also known as Giant Sequoia or Sierra Redwood trees. On average, redwood trees grow to be between 164 and 279 feet, and are typically between 20 and 26 feet in diameter. (This annotation contains an image)
In this chapter, Zitkala-Sa sees the trees as a symbol inherently connected with
During the California Gold Rush, California Native Americans suffered terribly from a variety of factors. Sources of food were destroyed from the introduction of new chemicals, and new diseases such as smallpox took huge tolls on the Natives. Gold prospectors also unleashed violent attacks on the Natives. In the most famous incident, the Bridge Gulch Massacre, 150 Wintu people were massacred while they slept by American gold prospectors, who mistakenly blamed the tribe for the death of one of their men. (This annotation contains an image)
What is Zitkala-Sa's primary goal in writing these California editorials?
The word "auxiliary" means "giving support" or "supplementary." What do you think Zitkala-Sa is referring to when she speaks of the California Indians' Auxiliaries?
Parts III and IV Quiz
In general, Zitkala-Sa believes that the way to improve life for Native Americans is to