Changing Scholarly Interpretations of Gertrude Bonnin (Zitkala-Ša)
The Yankton Sioux writer and activist Gertrude Bonnin (1876-1938), better known by her Lakota name, Zitkala-Ša (Red Bird), was perhaps the most prominent Native American woman of the early twentieth century. In her writings, she consistently overturned conventions of language and meaning to subvert and criticize the American discourse of civilization. Bonnin’s use of English as a tool of resistance has invited misrepresentations and misunderstandings. Criticism can be distilled into three interpretive frameworks: liminal, assimilationist and bicultural. Liminal scholarship focuses on Bonnin’s 1900 semi-autobiography for the Atlantic Monthly, which laments the author’s separation from her birth culture. Assimilationist criticism springs from extra-literary sources, concentrating on her anti-peyote and pro-US citizenship campaigns. Finally, bicultural criticism argues that Bonnin’s knowledge of both the white and the Sioux world allowed her to form a compelling critique of Euro-American society from differing cultural and linguistic discourses. Recently, however, more forceful interpretations on Bonnin have begun to emerge. They identify her as either a promoter of Gerald Vizenor’s concept of “survivance” or as a forerunner of the Red Power movement. This article traces and dissects the evolution of Bonnin scholarship, pointing to emerging perspectives from which to interrogate her work and the direction future research and analysis could take.
Keywords: Gertrude Bonnin; Zitkala-Ša; liminal; assimilationist; bicultural; interpretation
Acampora, Christa and Angela Cotton, eds. 2007. Cultural Sites of Critical Interest: Philosophy, Aesthetics, and African American and Native American Women’s Writings. Albany: SUNY P.
Bell, Betty Louise. 1998. “If this is Paganism… Zitkala-Ša and the Devil’s Language.” In Weaver 1998, 61-68.
Bernadin, Susan. 1997. “The Lessons of a Sentimental Education: Zitkala-Ša’s Autobiographical Narratives.” Western American Literature 32 (3): 212-38.
Blanchard, Paulette. 2017. Review of Red Bird, Red Power: The Life and Legacy of Zitkala-Ša, by Tadeusz Lewandowski. American Indian Culture and Research Journal 41 (2): 174-77.
Bonnin, Gertrude (Zitkala-Ša) 1896. “Side by Side.” The Earlhamite, March 16, 177-79.
—. 1900a. “Impressions of an Indian Childhood.” Atlantic Monthly 85 (1): 37-47.
—. 1900b. “The School Days of an Indian Girl.” Atlantic Monthly 85 (2): 185-94.
—. 1900c. “An Indian Teacher among Indians.” Atlantic Monthly 85 (3): 381-86.
Carden, Mary Paniccia. 1997. “‘The Ears of the Palefaces Could Not Hear Me’: Languages of Self-Representation in Zitkala-Ša’s Autobiographical Essays.” Prose Studies 20 (1): 58-76.
Carpenter, Ron. 2004. “Zitkala-Ša and Bicultural Subjectivity.” Studies in American Indian Literatures 16 (3): 1-27.
Castillo, Susan and Victor M. P. DaRosa, eds. 1997. Native American Women in Literature and Culture. Porto: Fernando Pessoa UP.
Conley, Paige A. 2016. “Strategically Negotiating Essence: Zitkala-Ša’s Ethos as Activist.” In Ryan, Myers and Jones 2016, 173-94.
Cutter, Martha. 1994. “Zitkala-Ša’s Autobiographical Writings: The Problems of a Canonical Search for Language and Identity.” MELUS: Multi-Ethnic Literature of the United States 19 (1): 31-44.
Davidson, Cathy and Ada Norris. 2003. Introduction to American Indian Stories, Legends, and Other Writings, by Zitkala-Ša, xi-xxxvi. New York: Penguin.
Diana, Vanessa Holford. 1997. “Hanging in the Heart of Chaos: Bi-Cultural Limbo, Self-(Re)presentation, and the White Audience in Zitkala-Ša’s American Indian Stories.” Cimarron Review 121: 154-72.
Edmunds, R. David, ed. 2001. The New Warriors: Native American Leaders since 1900. Lincoln: U of Nebraska P.
Estes, Nick (Kul Wicasa). 2017. Review of Red Bird, Red Power: The Life and Legacy of Zitkala-Ša, by Tadeusz Lewandowski. Journal of the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association 4 (2): 101-102.
Fisher, Dexter. 1979. “Zitkala-Ša: The Evolution of a Writer.” American Indian Quarterly 5 (3): 229-38.
Hafen, P. Jane. 1997. “Zitkala-Ša: Sentimentality and Sovereignty.” Wíčazo Ša Review 12 (2): 31-41.
—. 2001. Introduction to Dreams and Thunder: Stories, Poems, and The Sun Dance Opera, by Zitkala-Ša, xiii-xxiv. Lincoln: U of Nebraska P.
Heflin, Ruth. 2000. I Remain Alive: The Sioux Literary Renaissance. Syracuse: Syracuse UP.
Hoefel, Rosanne. 1997. “Writing, Performance, Activism: Zitkala-Ša and Pauline Johnson.” In Castillo and DaRosa 1997, 107-18.
Inness, Sherrie A. and Diana Royer, eds. 1997. Breaking Boundaries: New Perspectives on Women’s Regional Writing. Iowa City: U of Iowa P.
Katanski, Amelia. 2005. Learning to Write “Indian”: The Boarding School Experience and American Indian Literature. Norman: U of Oklahoma P.
Kelsey, Penelope. 2003. “Narratives of the Boarding School Era from Victory to Resistance.” Atenea 23 (2): 123-37.
Krupat, Arnold. Forthcoming. Changed Forever: American Indian Boarding School Literature, Volume 2. Albany: SUNY P.
Lewandowski, Tadeusz. 2016. Red Bird, Red Power: The Life and Legacy of Zitkala-Ša. Norman: U of Oklahoma P.
—. 2018. Zitkala-Ša: Letters, Speeches, and Unpublished Writings (1898-1929). Leiden and Boston: Brill.
Lyons, Scott Richard. 1999. “The Incorporation of the Indian Body: Peyotism and the Pan-Indian Public, 1911-1913.” In Swearingen and Pruett 1999, 147-54.
Maroukis, Thomas Constantine. 2004. Peyote and the Yankton Sioux. Norman: U of Oklahoma P.
—. 2013. “The Peyote Controversy and the Demise of the Society of American Indians.” American Indian Quarterly 37 (3): 159-80.
Meisenheimer, D. K. Jr. 1997. “Regionalist Bodies/Embodied Regions: Sarah Orne Jewett and Zitkala-Ša.” In Inness and Royer 1997, 109-23.
Moses, L. G. 1984. The Indian Man: A Biography of James Mooney. Chicago: U of Illinois P.
Newmark, Julianne. 2012. “Pluralism, Place, and Gertrude Bonnin’s Counternativism from Utah to Washington, DC.” American Indian Quarterly 36 (3): 318-47.
—. 2018. Review of Red Bird, Red Power: The Life and Legacy of Zitkala-Ša, by Tadeusz Lewandowski. Western American Literature 52 (2): 257-59.
Portillo, Annette Angela. 2017. Sovereign Stories and Blood Memories: Native American Women’s Autobiography. Albuquerque: U of New Mexico P.
Reynolds, Margot. 2007. “Mother Times Two: A Double Take on a Gynocentric Justice Song.” In Acampora and Cotton 2007, 171-90.
Ryan, Kathleen J., Nancy Myers and Rebecca Jones, eds. 2016. Rethinking Ethos: A Feminist Ecological Approach to Rhetoric. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP.
Samuels, Shirley, ed. 1992. The Culture of Sentiment: Race, Gender, and Sentimentality in Nineteenth-Century America. New York and Oxford: Oxford UP.
Sholer, Bo, ed. 1984. Coyote was Here: Essays on Contemporary Native American Literary and Political Mobilization. Philadelphia, PA: Coronet.
Slotkin, James Sydney. 1956. The Peyote Religion: A Study in Indian White Relations. Glencoe, NJ: The Free Press.
Smith, Sidonie. 1994. “Cheesecake, Nymphs, and We the People: Un/National Subjects about 1900.” Prose Studies 17 (1): 120-40.
Spack, Ruth. 1997. “Re-Visioning Sioux Women: Zitkala-Ša’s Revolutionary American Indian Stories.” Legacy: A Journal of American Women Writers 14 (1): 25-42.
—. 2001. “Dis/engagement: Zitkala-Ša’s Letters to Carlos Montezuma, 1901-1902.” MELUS: Multi-Ethnic Literature of the United States 26 (1): 173-204.
—. 2002. America’s Second Tongue: American Indian Education and the Ownership of English, 1860-1900. Lincoln: U of Nebraska P.
Stout, Mary. 1984. “Zitkala-Ša: The Literature of Politics.” In Sholer 1984, 70-78.
Susag, Dorothea. 1993. “Zitkala-Ša (Gertrude Simmons Bonnin); A Power(full) Literary Voice.” Studies in American Indian Literatures 5 (4): 3-24.
Swearingen, C. Jan and Dave Pruett, eds. 1999. Rhetoric, the Polis, and the Global Village: Selected Papers from the 1998 Thirtieth Anniversary Rhetoric Society of America
Conference. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Earlbaum.
Warrior, Robert Allen. 1995. Tribal Secrets: Recovering American Intellectual Traditions. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P.
Weaver, Jace, ed. 1998. Native American Religious Identity: Unforgotten Gods. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis.
—. 2006. “Splitting the Earth: First Utterances and Pluralist Separatism.” In Weaver, Womack and Warrior 2006, 1-89.
Weaver, Jace, Craig S. Womack and Robert Allen Warrior, eds. 2006. American Indian Literary Nationalism. Albuquerque: U of New Mexico P.
Welch, Deborah Sue. 1985. “Zitkala-Ša: An American Indian Leader, 1876-1938.” PhD diss., University of Wyoming.
—. 2001. “Gertrude Simmons Bonnin (Zitkala-Ša)/Dakota.” In Edmunds 2001, 35- 54.
Wexler, Laura. 1992. “Tender Violence: Literary Eavesdropping, Domestic Fiction, and Educational Reform.” In Samuels 1992, 9-38.
Willard, William. 1985. “Zitkala-Ša, a Woman Who Would Be Heard!” Wíčazo Ša Review 1 (1): 11-16.
—. 1991. “The First Amendment, Anglo-Conformity and American Indian Religious Freedom.” Wíčazo Ša Review 7 (1): 25-30.
- There are currently no refbacks.
Atlantis. Journal of the Spanish Association for Anglo-American Studies
ISSN: 0210-6124 | e-ISSN: 1989-6840. © Atlantis/Aedean 2013.
Contact | Privacy Statement | Copyright notice | Journal Help| Site Map