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American Indian Stories

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  794 ratings  ·  67 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, ...more
Paperback, 196 pages
Published September 1st 2003 by Bison Books (first published 1921)
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Average rating 3.91  · 
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Aug 01, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: native, 500gbw
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
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.
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.

Lucky natives receive the word of God and the right to property.
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). ...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!
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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 ...more
Jan 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
American Indian Stories is a gripping series of essays written by Zitkala-Sa, an early Native activist in American history, about her life as a Dakota woman in the late nineteenth century/early twentieth century United States. Zitkala-Sa's collection is a treasure, deftly crafted to present an authentic Native narrative at a time when the broader American culture was explicitly hostile to her very existence.

Zitkala-Sa weaves a powerful story of a young Dakota girl who refuses to be broken by the
Feb 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A captivating collection of stories offering real knowledge of one segment of Native American life in 19th and 20th century America. Part autobiographical and part fiction these essays by Zitkala-Sa express the difficulties faced by a young Native American girl losing her cultural heritage as she faces societal changes brought on by abusive missionaries. The anthology begins with sweet childhood remembrances of time spent with her mother and aunt in an idyllic, peaceful, tight knit community ...more
Sophia Redel
Feb 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is a great collection of short stories, autobiographical sketches, and fiction legends, that tell of Zitkala-Sa's life experiences. Through this collection of short writing is a reflection of the lives of many who went through the same struggles of oppression and assimilation. The author gives these short stories a truly authentic feel through recalling legends and tales from oral trade and talking of experiences in her life and community. The early stories follow the author's life on a ...more
Feb 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
In Zitkala-Sa’s American Indian Stories, she tells the stories of her childhood on the Sioux reservation in South Dakota, as well as her time in the Eastern schools as a student and teacher. Zitkala-Sa was raised by her mother who taught her respect and family values. Her mother also told her about the bad “paleface.” As she grew older, she became curious about life outside of the reservation and was itching to go to school in the east. When she returned years later, she was a changed woman and ...more
Dakota McCoy
Aug 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This incredible book, featuring stories, poetry, and articles from brilliant Zitkála-Šá, reads as if they were written yesterday. She lived from 1876-1936 and was instrumental in gaining citizenship rights for American Indians. The stories are at times painful: she was lured to a missionary school out east, where she and her friends were beaten for not understanding English and their hair shorn off; she describes drunks and opium addicts who receive a salary to teach American Indian children but ...more
Ana Zeljko
Feb 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
American Indian Stories was one of the first books I read that came from a Native American author. Her collection of stories range from her life growing up on the reservation to life outside of the reservation, in a boarding school where she gets met with a different, harsh reality. Zitkala-Sa draws you in with her descriptive and strong voice, her writing so full of emotion that she makes you feel as if you're experiencing everything from right beside her, instead of through the pages. I was ...more
Lauren Rogers
Feb 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
In American Indian Stories, Zitkala-Sa shares the trials and tribulations of growing up as a Native American. Her stories entail her experiences growing up on a Sioux Reservation, attending an American Indian boarding school, and her transition into adulthood. Zitkala-Sa encourages readers to consider the additional challenges that come with being a Native American in a society that is primarily dominated by Euro-American culture and values. I enjoyed how this book is chronological and ...more
Erin Cataldi
Jul 01, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019
This was the first time I had read anything by the famed indigenous author, Zitkala-Sa. This book contained a collection of her biographical snapshots and stories of youth, folk tales, essays, and poetry. They are eloquent, profound, and deeply moving. She had raw power with her words and when you read this book, the imagery it conveys about growing up at the turn of the century on a reservation and what it means to be indigenous is profound. Essential reading for Native American scholars.
Jan 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ebook, female-authors
Unexpectedly fierce and poetic. This is great American writing that goes far beyond a recounting of legend. Zitkala-Sa blends memoir, fiction, and advocacy to create a book that's ahead of its time. Damn.

"It was a paradox upon a land of prophecy that its path to future glory be stained with the blood of its aborigines."
Aug 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Really enjoyed the 2/3s of this that I read. Particularly her description of her childhood, and her resistance to hair shingling and turnips. I wish there were greater exploration of the pull of modernity--clearly it upsets and repels her even as it attracts. So much loss which she conveys. So many lovely photos of her...wonder if anyone's written on this!
Richard Lamont
May 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
Zitkala-Ša is a great Sioux writer and is very popular for his collections of Sioux tales. This is a good read for anyone. It is nice to read writing from a man that is from the same band of Native Americans as you.
Jul 17, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The first half is mostly autobiographical, narrating the author's experience of leaving the Plains for schooling in the east. The second half is a series of short stories.
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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 ...more
“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.” 4 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.” 3 likes
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