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American Indian Stories

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3.84  ·  Rating Details ·  478 Ratings  ·  38 Reviews
American Indian Stories, first published in 1921, is a collection of childhood stories, allegorical fiction, and an essay. One of the most famous Sioux writers and activists of the modern era, Zitkala-Sa (Gertrude Bonnin) recalled legends and tales from oral tradition and used experiences from her life and community to educate others about the Yankton Sioux. Determined, co ...more
Paperback, Second Edition, 196 pages
Published September 1st 2003 by Bison Books (first published 1921)
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Hadrian
This short volume contains a collection of short stories, biographical sketches, and one essay by the Sioux writer Zitkala-Ša.

The early stories are about the author's life on a reservation in South Dakota, her freedom as a young child there, and then her life in a missionary school further east. It's a jarring experience, where the sound of bells, the tight stiff shoes, and the murmurs of English are all foreign experiences. When she returns, she feels separate from the world of her childhood an
...more
Zanna
Aug 09, 2015 Zanna rated it really liked it
I am writing about American Indian Stories and Old Indian Legends together because I read them together. Discussions can be found here and here

As a child, Zitkala-Sa remembers, she and her playmates would beg for stories of Iktomi. These tales are amusing and didactic, freighted with moral and spiritual instruction. Iktomi 'the trickster' is a cautionary figure, object of ridicule and disdain rather than awe. He is lazy, selfish and dishonest, and his tales seem shaped to inculcate enthusiasm fo
...more
Sandra
Sep 24, 2014 Sandra rated it it was amazing
This is a small book. My copy is 89 pages, but is, to me, a very important book. Because it tells the true words of the author's life. In very simple and elegant words, she lets us in on how it felt to be not an Indian and not a white. How she lost her simple but very happy ways, to learn to read and write in a white school.
I think her the most brave, to leave her Mother at such a young age and go off with people she didn't know. It was her choice to go, but one she regretted after she left.
It
...more
Christy
This is a collection of several different kinds of writing (autobiography, storytelling, and political activism). It clearly illustrates the ways in which Native Americans have been disenfranchised and their culture dismantled--among which are the creation of reservations, the imposition of missionaries, compulsory schooling in which children are separated from family and tribe and taught to be "white," struggles over land ownership and identity, and the general voicelessness and powerlessness ...more
Courtney Williams
May 01, 2014 Courtney Williams rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle
The book: American Indian Stories (note that this was first published in 1921)

The author: Zitkala-Ša, Dakota-Sioux writer, editor, musician, teacher and political activist. (Missionaries also gave her the name Gertrude Simmons Bonnin.)

The subject: Stories from Zitkala-Ša's and other Sioux people's lives, as well as legends and political essays.

Why I chose it: I am interested in Indigenous people and would far rather read things about them that are written by them. I believe Zitkala-Ša was the fi
...more
Gordon
Jun 17, 2015 Gordon rated it liked it
While I sympathize very strongly with the author's goals and message, my impression of the book itself is mixed. The first part - Zitkala-Sa's memories of her early life both before and after leaving her native home - is by far the strongest and on its own would have rated 4 stars. We can only wish she had felt able to say more. The subsequent stories carry an important message, but are rather weak if judged solely as works of fiction (though I admit I could be missing some subtler strengths). ...more
Jd Guinn
Jul 17, 2011 Jd Guinn rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in Native American/Aboriginal culture
I encountered this book as a free read from Google Books and completed it on breaks while at work. As others have mentioned some of the language is dated. One expects that from a manuscript this old. There is also some syntax errors and inconsistencies - none so distracting that the stories themselves cannot be enjoyed.
This small volume does much to remind us of the cultural wounds inflicted upon a nation. The tone is often heavy, sometimes light-hearted, and at others inspirational. Approaching
...more
Erika B. (SOS BOOKS)
Aug 12, 2016 Erika B. (SOS BOOKS) rated it really liked it
Shelves: bio-auto-graphy
A wee child toddling in a wonder world, I prefer to their dogma my excursions into the natural gardens where the voice of the Great Spirit is heard in the twittering of birds, the rippling of mighty waters, and the sweet breathing of flowers. If this is Paganism, then at present, at least, I am a Pagan.”

I actually really admire Zitkala-Sa! I love that she captures a culture that was slowly disintegrating. While she strives to excel and live up to the American dream she realizes that the odds ar
...more
Humphrey
Apr 14, 2015 Humphrey rated it really liked it
Zitkala-Sa belongs alongside the great fin de siecle prose writers. She weilds impressionistic style with great effect, moves in and out of tenses suggestively, and maintains an ambiguity on the sentence level that many of her contemporaries in the short story genre only achieve on the level of the story as a whole. It's a great shame that she didn't write more fiction -- though her nonfiction journalism, bending the lines of genre, bears the same qualities.
Christina
I had to read some selections of this book for a class, and I enjoyed them so much I ended up reading the whole book. This is an incredibly poignant collection of writings- I especially loved the autobiographical sections, as well as Blue Star Woman, which is one of the most moving short stories I've ever read. Zitkala-Sa's writing is so lyrical that this collection was hard to put down.
Jennice Mckillop
Sep 25, 2016 Jennice Mckillop rated it really liked it
Great story telling with vivid descriptions. This collection of Native stories should be better marketed to introduce it to a wider audience.
Sandy
Aug 11, 2016 Sandy rated it really liked it
I lived and raised a daughter in Omaha Nebraska in the late 1980s with a family from Yankton, South Dakota. Much of the land, and the traditions there are steeped in Dakota Sioux Indian Tradition and part of my young daughter's Girl Scout troop experience was to learn more about tribe traditions. We jumped right in and I, being a researcher, read this book with parts to the girls.

Sa, and her "white" name Gertrude Bonnin, wrote the book about legends and tales learned from tribe members passed d
...more
Deutschermatt
Sep 12, 2016 Deutschermatt rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A true eye opener

In addition to the beautiful poetry found in this collection of tales, is a glimpse at the atrocities American civilization has wrought on Native Americans. A good education for any conscientious person, and an enjoyable read.
Susan
Nov 11, 2014 Susan rated it it was amazing
Zitkala-Sa is a Sioux that writes about her life. She left her mother at the age of 8 to go to live with the "missionaries" in the east. She finds herself distraught with the way she is treated. She goes to college, becomes a teacher and writes many books. She became an important advocate for Native American civil rights. She was a key figure in the Native Americans becoming citizens of the United States.

This book includes her autobiography, story telling and politics. The author is an excellen
...more
Maxine
Apr 29, 2014 Maxine rated it it was ok
This book has a great insight to Zitkala-Sa's experiences as an American Indian woman from that time. Her stories gave light to how life on the reservation was as she was growing up and how this life was changing from the influence/presence of the white people. I did however trudge through this book as if I were trying to pass through a hip high mud pit. The way the stories and articles read were very old fashioned, and while I enjoyed the old fashioned style in the stories, Zitkala-Sa's style ...more
Sheila
Jun 22, 2014 Sheila rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found this book most interesting due to the historical nature of it. I am also fascinated by the author, after reading an article about her, and wanted to read some of her works.

Written in the early 1900's, this book of stories tells both the author's history, as well as other American Indian stories she tells of that era. Zitkala-sa was a Dakota Indian who lived on her reservation until she was 8 years old, when she went with missionaries to be raised and schooled in "the east". Having known
...more
Marjorie
Aug 12, 2014 Marjorie rated it it was amazing
Given To Me For An Honest Review

This book is about the author's life. It tells her story of being born in South Dakota on the Yankton Reservation. Her name is Zitkala-Sa. She felt "as free as the wind that blew my hair and no less spirited than a bounding deer." When she reached 8, she was sent to a Quaker boarding school. She soon didn't believe things of the American society or her own tribe. She attended college, became a teacher, and wrote a variety of books. She became a prominate advocate
...more
Jenny Yates
Mar 27, 2010 Jenny Yates rated it liked it
There’s definitely a dated feel about the language. It is sometimes melodramatic. But these stories, first published in 1921, are well worth reading.

The first piece is a poignant memoir of the author’s childhood, and it has the feel of truth. Like many of the stories, it depicts Dakota social habits in a completely natural and easy way, from the inside. Other stories deal with the intersection of beliefs between Christianity and Dakota spiritual practices. One of these, “The Soft-Hearted Sioux”
...more
Abby
Jul 27, 2011 Abby added it
It is always a bit of a shock to realize how bad things actually were and may still be. Zitkala-Sa covers a vast territory of the fallout from bad policies regarding Native Americans and their land, and it is poignantly clear how much of it is autobiographical and drawn from her own observation. Her political message is very loud, but she gifts the people of her stories with a dignity that often evades those who write on behalf of the wronged. I can't really imagine how this might have struck ...more
Jenna
Feb 25, 2009 Jenna rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2009
This was assigned for a history class that I'm taking. I love stories, I grew up listening to the native legends in Alaska.

It is a fabulous, short read (always good in a history class because you never know) and I highly recommend it.

Zitkala-sa tells her story of growing up, being sent to an "indian school" to be educated and of all that she learned. She tells of her culture and her struggles with her mother, who is from an older time and remembers more clearly the troubles her people had.

She h
...more
Rachel Rabeneck
Aug 05, 2016 Rachel Rabeneck rated it liked it
This short collection covers a collection of topics: the author's story of growing up as a Dakota in the changing West, stories of other Dakotas' lives, a synopsis on America's "Indian Problem", and a collection of Dakota folk tales. This book is good, but I found myself counting pages until I was finished. I wish that the book focused on one or two topics versus the four or so it had. Overall, it is a good read for anyone interested in Native American history or lore.
Zack
May 22, 2009 Zack rated it it was amazing
The first translation of Native American writing to be produced without an Anglo intermediary. An excellent blend of autobiography and tribal mythos, with a respectful letter to its author by Helen Keller at the beginning (though she wasn't cool enough to resist referring to it as "your little book").
Miriam Pia
Jun 20, 2011 Miriam Pia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really liked this book. It took me a long time to read it; I am not sure why. I think I wanted to really absorb it. The topic is very special to me personally - and we are very lucky that this woman wrote these and managed to get them published. She covers some important turf.

I would highly recommend it to anyone interested in women's perspectives or native american history.
Suzy Cherry
Aug 05, 2012 Suzy Cherry rated it it was amazing
I'm reading a different edition than this - there is no introduction. The stories are tender and real. I am enjoying it, yet feeling sad for the passing of these ways. The book (and the life of the author) transverse the time when Euro-Americans overcame the ways of Native Americans.
Theresa
Aug 16, 2008 Theresa rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Those seeking understanding of early Native American struggle
Recommended to Theresa by: Professor
Seems simply written, but full of metaphors and subtlties that the author could not be open about considering who her audience was. Intriguing glimpse into the life of a Native American struggling between two cultures.
Mackenzie
Apr 05, 2016 Mackenzie marked it as to-read
I think it is important to use primary sources and diverse voices as much as possible. I'm very familiar with the European mythologies but I need to learn more about my own country's rich history and myths.
Gary
Mar 14, 2013 Gary rated it really liked it
This was a short book of stories written by zitkala-sa i picked up in south dakota at the megalithic sculpture of crazy horse. The prose was simple overall and easy to read with themes revolving around lost innocence, changing cultural expectations, and the injustice and hypocrisy of man.
Thisishuhwow
May 04, 2016 Thisishuhwow rated it did not like it
I remember I had to read this crap in my white guilt class--I mean, Native American literature class--in college. We conquered this stupid culture for a reason.
Nicholas
Mar 02, 2012 Nicholas rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
A sad collection of tales, as any history of American Indians and their experiences with white American would be expected to be.
Rhonda
Mar 20, 2015 Rhonda rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A real eye opener.

These stories told by the people it happened to should make us all think of how injustices can happen so easily. This book will leave you without words.
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Zitkala-Ša (Dakota: pronounced zitkála-ša, which translates to "Red Bird") also known by the missionary-given name Gertrude Simmons Bonnin, was a Sioux writer, editor, musician, teacher and political activist. She wrote several works chronicling her struggles in her youth as she was pulled back and forth between the influences of dominant American culture and her own Native American heritage, as ...more
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“For untold ages the Indian race had not used family names. A new-born child was given a brand-new name. Blue-Star Woman was proud to write her name for which she would not be required to substitute another's upon her marriage, as is the custom of civilized peoples.” 1 likes
“Before this peculiar experience I have no distinct memory of having recognized any vital bond between myself and my own shadow. I never gave it an afterthought.” 0 likes
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