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American Indian Stories

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  1,060 ratings  ·  107 reviews
American Indian Stories, first published in 1921, is a collection of childhood stories, allegorical fiction, and an essay, including several of Zitkála-Šá's articles that were originally published in Harper's Monthly and Atlantic Monthly.

One of the most famous Sioux writers and activists of the modern era, Zitkala-Sa (Gertrude Simmons Bonnin) recalled legends and tales fro
Paperback, 196 pages
Published September 1st 2003 by Bison Books (first published 1921)
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Average rating 3.96  · 
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 ·  1,060 ratings  ·  107 reviews

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Aug 01, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 500gbw, native
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
Sep 24, 2014 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.
“For the white man’s papers I had given up my faith in the Great Spirit. For these same papers I had forgotten the healing in trees and brooks. On account of my mother’s simple view of life and my lack of any, I gave her up, also. I made no friends among the race of people I loathed. Like a slender tree, I had been uprooted from my mother, nature, and God.”
This short book is combing Zitkála-Šá’s childhood memories, her short stories, and her poetry, painting the origin story of her activism, pol
Feb 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: g-woc
If I'm being totally honest this collection of stories does not transition well into audio. It was occasionally confusing and I think that confusion would have been cleared up on the page.

So with that single caveat, the voices of women and the voices of Native American women are not heard nearly enough. Taking it a step further to include Australia, New Zealand, Canada and any nation with an indigenous people, we all need to hear their voices.

But it's challenging. They are a minority in a mino
Rod Brown
Without any historical context, I was a little lost in this collection of stories and poetry that apparently first appeared in 1912 (there is nothing in the book itself to indicate this). There is an introduction, but it is focused primarily on the author's literary merits and controversies and does little to establish the setting or origin of these tales, some of which are (semi?) autobiographical and some of which are fiction.

The stories themselves are okay, if a little dull. The narrative vo
Never Without a Book
In American Indian Stories, Zitkala-Sa gives us a glimpse of her early life on the Yankton Indian Reservation and her time as a student at White's Manual Labour Institute and Earlham College. The second half of this book is a collection of various essays and traditional stories.

I enjoyed all the stories in this collection but “The School Days of an Indian Girl” broke me. In this story Zitkala-Sa talks about the missionary school that was designed to strip children of their tribal cultures and r
Jul 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Zitkala-Ša leaves her home in Dakota and joins a missionary school in the east. In this book she gives a bird eye view of her childhood and brief look into her entry to western society.
She writes about religion, politics and the future she sees for her people.

Oct 10, 2013 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). T ...more
Sean-Paul Kosina
Feb 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-shelf
‘Tis glimpses of this grand rainbow,
Where moments with good deeds unite,
That gladden many weary hearts,
Inspiring them to seek more Light.

Lucky natives receive the word of God and the right to property.
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 o ...more
Courtney Williams
Jan 03, 2014 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
Picked this up on sale and on impulse at one of my favourite indie bookstores here in Singapore, The Moon.

I've read a few books by indigenous North American authors, but like many things I can stand to do more. This though I think, is the first non-fiction book I've read.

It was a really fascinating look into a period of time that I have very little knowledge about. Zitkála-Šá talks about how her life changed dramatically, losing connection with the only world she ever knew, to assimilate into
Jd Guinn
Jul 17, 2011 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
RaeAnna Rekemeyer
Nov 13, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
November is National Native American Heritage Month. I read American Indian Stories by Zitkála-Šá, and it is heartbreaking and beautiful. I have many things to say about this one.
Carolyn Klassen
An invaluable memoir portion, some really memorable short stories, and poetry that was good, just not my preferred style.

The memoir was of childhood, boarding school, and after graduation/college. Some harrowing passages of the trauma of separation and cultural loss that were made all the more sad because of the beauty of the passages about her childhood. Her relationship with her mother was so tender.

The short stories were a nice surprise! They had twists I didn't expect. I would revisit these
Miss Bookiverse
I always find it fascinating to read something that was written 100 years ago and to be immersed in the life the person led at that point in history. American Indian Stories is a collection of memories, short stories, and poems by Zitkála-Šá, a member of the Sioux tribe. I enjoyed the personal thoughts on her childhood and her time at missionary school the most. It must have been so hard to be torn between your family and culture on the one side and changing times and the constant pressure of th ...more
Nov 15, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I just wanted more of the nonfiction! Zitkala-Sa’s story is heartbreaking, fascinating, and illuminating. I’d love to have read an entire book about it. I did, however, enjoy the short stories as well and seeing what she was saying with these fictional tales, but the nonfiction is really what grabbed my heart here. I just wanted more!
Nov 16, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I wish I would've read this faster, I definitely would've understood more from it. Very interesting and saddening though. ...more
Holly Marie St. Pierre
I found this edition at my auntie's home after her passing. I was excited to read it as Zitkala-Sa is my great aunt. My auntie and I had been discussing her, while I worked on our family tree and it seems she purchased this book during that time.
Since Zitkala-Sa's original work is out of copyright, this edition is published by a private party. I am not familiar with the name, but I hope the proceeds are being used to either print more copies or are being used to support Native causes and raise
Erika B. (SOS BOOKS)
Feb 14, 2015 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
Rana Adham
Dec 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"Like a slender tree, I had been uprooted from my mother, nature and God. I was shorn of my branches, which had waved in love and sympathy for home and friends....Now a cold bare pole I seemed to be, planted in a strange earth."

Wow, this book was an eye-opener. The autobiographical first half was beautiful, the stories of the second half were thought provoking. I enjoyed the writer's fluid language and earnest passion for her people. I learned a great deal about people I had only heard of, and a
Mar 25, 2015 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. ...more
Rachel Rabeneck
Aug 05, 2016 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. ...more
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. ...more
Sarah Anderson
Sep 08, 2009 rated it it was amazing
A valuable primary resource for information on the American Indian way of life. Zitkala-Sa is required reading for anyone interested in the High Plains way of life.
This author is a new hero to me. Seriously, check out her bio. We're all lumps compared to what she accomplished and fought for in her lifetime. ...more
Nov 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography, na, politics
Collecting some of her works written for serial publications, this book shares the author's insight into the rapidly changing nature of her tribal life at the turn of the century.

If your only knowledge of her and her works is from the popular children's book Red Bird Sings: The Story of Zitkala-Sa, Native American Author, Musician, and Activist (containing some of these essays, but edited), then I highly recommend reading this collection. It's not sanitized and you really get to know her throug
Jan 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jaqueline Martinez
Feb 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
“American Indian Stories” by Sioux author and activist Zitkala-Sa, consists of various pieces of writing sharing her experience of growing up on a reservation and attending boarding school, along with some fictional work, finished off by a final essay pleading for a greater understanding of what it means to be Native American. What I found to be the most enjoyable part about this book were the three short stories “Impressions of an Indian Childhood”, “The School Days of an Indian Girl” and “An I ...more
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Zitkála-Šá (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 w ...more

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