Zitkala Sa Family Relationships
Zitkala Sa life as Sioux child during the late 1800’s was very difficult. Raised on the Yankton Sioux Reservation in South Dakota during the “transitional” period in Native American history by her mother, her white father left before she was born, Zitkala Sa relationship becomes strained when palefaces arrive on the reservation. Zitkala Sa talks about her life on the reservation with her mother and how their relationship becomes unraveled in her autobiographical story, Impressions of an Indian Childhood.
Growing up, Zitkala Sa learned her tribe’s culture through experience and through imitating her mother and other older women in tribe. She was taught to always respect her elders, be a generous host to guests within her home, and to be concerned with the welfare of all members of her tribe, particularly the ill or unfortunate. We can see these lessons at work, when old grandfather enters her wigwam while her mother is away and she immediately takes on the role of hostess. She offers him a small piece of unleavened bread and attempts to make him coffee. Attempts being the key word, as she was trying to make coffee using old coffee grounds found on the bottom of the pot and cold ashes. Old grandfather does not embarrass her, or let on that something is wrong with the coffee.
Missionaries soon arrived on the Sioux reservation in 1884. Their mission was to recruit students for a Quaker boarding school for Indians in Wabash, Indiana. This is where the troubles start to become apparent with their mother daughter relationship. Zitkala Sa mother has always had a hatred towards the paleface. She has seen what they do to families that were forced to migrate to new lands and the many battles that lead to the migration. So when Zitkala Sa comes home from playing with friends and tells her mother about all the wonderful things the palefaces have told them. Zitkala Sa’s mother becomes very concerned. She tries desperately to...
Cited: Zytkala Sa. “Impressions of an Indian Childhood.” The Norton Anthology American Literature
W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. New York: 2007. 1837-1845
Kilcup, K. Native American Women’s Writing: c. 1800-1924, an anthology 200
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