Historic Woman Spotlight: Zit-kala Sa

Zitkala-Sa (Lakota: Redbird) (Birth name: Gertrude Simmons) was a Native American author and activist who was born on February 22, 1876. She was born on the Yankton Reservation in South Dakota, making her a member of the Yankton Dakota Sioux. Her mother was part of the Yankton Sioux and her father was Euro-American.

She was a strong woman of great importance who should not be forgotten. Her will to amplify opportunities for Native Americans and to protect the Native culture in North America was a prevalent theme in her life thus making her one of the most important women in American history!!In her younger years, she went to a Quaker Missionary school in Indiana. Zitkala-Sa quickly realized that the history being taught in American schools was inaccurate and was completely erasing and rewriting the truth about Native American identities and culture. She went on to become a teacher herself, and she taught at the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Pennsylvania.

Zitkala-Sa knew that it was part of her life mission to preserve her people’s culture. By 1901 she was a published author as “Old Indian Legends” was one of her very first works. The book featured an anthology of original Dakota stories. Eventually she became a member of the Society of American Indians, and became the head secretary of that organization in 1916. Zitkala-Sa, a profound writer also assisted in co-writing, “The Sun Dance” which was the first Opera written by a Native American. Her list of achievements is long and did not stop there.

She was a founding member of the National Council of American Indians as well, and acted as a liaison between the society and the Bureau of Indian Affairs for the United States government.

Can this woman be any more amazing?! The answer is yes. She was also an editor for the American Indian Magazine and was a co-author for several books including: Oklahoma’s Poor Rich Indians, an Orgy of Graft and Exploitation of the Five Civilized Tribes, and Legalized Robbery. All of these books are critical to American & Native American history as they expose the mistreatment of Native Americans in our country. She went on to be an appointed adviser to the U.S. Government’s Meriam Commission of 1928 which she helped lead several major reforms for Native Americans. She was dedicated to helping them obtain better healthcare and education. Through her lifelong work she was always an advocate for Native American rights and people. Preserving her cultural identity in the melting pot of America was the main priority of her life. Because of her contributions, she helped change the world as we know it today!

Kimberly Anne is a freelance writer and aspiring author. She is currently in school working towards her BA in Creative Writing and English. Besides work and school, she is writing her first novel and helps small businesses design their websites and brands. You can follow @kimberlyanneinc on IG and Twitter. www.kimberlyanneinc.com

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