IS MUNI Imp. Impression

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					            Masaryk University

                Faculty of Arts

        Department of English
        and American Studies

     English Language and Literature

                  Sandra Češková

Native American Traditions in the Work of
            Bachelor‟s Diploma Thesis

 Supervisor: Mgr. Kateřina Prajznerová, M.A., Ph. D.
              I declare that I have worked on this thesis independently,
using only the primary and secondary sources listed in the bibliography.

                                                         Sandra Češková
I would like to thank my supervisor Mgr. Kateřina Prajznerová M.A., Ph.D. for her time and
                                                                            helpful advice.
Table of contents:

1. Introduction………………………………….……………………………………………….……………1

2. American Indian Stories: Zitkala-Sa‟s Tale of Biculturalism………….……...….5

  2.1. “Impressions of an Indian Childhood”: Bicultural Environment

        and Its Influence on Zitkala-Sa‟s work.……..…..…………………………………….….7

  2.2. Reflections of Zitkala-Sa‟s Education in “White” Schools.………………………..….13

  2.3. The Crucial Role of Storytelling and Legends in Native American Society

       and Its Reflection in American Indian Stories…………………………………………...20

3. Old Indian Legends: Zitkala-Sa‟s Transcription of Native

  American Traditions into the „Oppressor‟s‟ Language……………………….......25

   3.1. Trickster Figures in Old Indian Legends.…………………..….............……………..27

   3.2. Morals Involved in Legends and Their Educational Value.………………………...31

4. Conclusion...…………………………………………………………..…………………………….……34

  Works Cited.…...………………………………………………………………….……………….…….39

  English Resume...……………………………………………………….……………………….....…42

  Czech Resume...……………………………………………………………………………...…………43
1. Introduction

       This thesis explores various aspects of Native American1 culture, as for

example social norms and conventions, family life, traditions and religion, as

reflected in the two major works written by Zitkala-Sa: American Inidan Stories

and Old Indian Legends. Both works are largely autobiographic and depict the

Native American culture and Zitkala-Sa‟s encounters with the other – Christian -

culture from her emotive and sensitive point of view. Although she was one of

the Native American autobiographical writers who had to fight for their position

among the recognized authors, Stanley argues that “Zitkala-Sa is one of the

first Native American women writers to write her autobiography without the

help of an interpreter or ethnographer” (65).

        According to Henderson, Zitkala-Sa was born in 1876 on the Pine Ridge

Reservation, South Dakota. She was the third child of Ellen Tate „Iyohiwin

Simmons, a full blood Yankton Sioux2. When Zitkala-Sa was eight years old, she

decided, against her mother‟s will, to leave the reservation for White‟s Manual

Labor Institute in Wabash, a school funded by Quaker missionaries

(Henderson). Same as many other uprooted children, she returned after four

years to a “heightened tension with her mother and ambivalence regarding her

heritage” (Hoefel). As Zitkala-Sa later wrote about herself in “The Schooldays of

an Indian Girl”, the white school left her “neither a wild Indian, nor a tame

one.” Thus, after four years of trying to find her place among her people,
     According to Merriam-Webster online dictionary, a Native American is “a member of any of the
aboriginal peoples of the western hemisphere; especially : a Native American of North America and
especially the United States.”
     The Sioux are a “group of related North American Indian peoples living mostly in the Plains and
speaking related langauges within the Siouan language stock. They comprise the Dakota-speaking Santee
(Eastern Sioux), the Nakota-speaking Yankton, and the Lakota-speaking Teton (Western Sioux), each of
which in turn has lesser divisions (e.g., Blackfoot, Oglala). The name Sioux is a French derivation of an
Ojibwa name for „enemy‟ or „snake‟” ( definition).

Zitkala-Sa decided to study again and enrolled at the Santee Normal Training

School (Henderson). In 1895 Zitkala-Sa accepted scholarships from Earlham

College and later studied also at the Boston Conservatory (Henderson). After

her studies, Zitkala-Sa started to work as a teacher at the Carlisle Indian

School, founded by Richard Henry Pratt (Hoefel).

        In 1900, Gertrude Simmons Bonnin began publishing articles criticizing

the Carlisle Indian School and adopted the pen name Zitkala-Sa (Henderson).

Her life was full of important achievements in Indian affairs and she was an

icon for many Indian people. “Her talents and contributions in the worlds of

literature, music, and politics challenge the long-standing beliefs that the white

man‟s culture is good, and Native Americans are sinful savages” (Henderson).

        It is known that, historically, the importance of the works of Native

American female writers has been underestimated, because of the „white‟3 view

of their position in society. The society had seen them as inferior, because in

the „white‟ society‟s view the men led the war parties, became chiefs and

guarded people and usually also conducted religious rituals. As Battaille and

Sands put it in their preface: “The popular view of American Indian women

disseminated by historians, anthropologists, sociologists and educators, as well

as novelists, accords women a low status because of the nature of the duties

they performed” (7). Their status was perceived as subordinate, although their

chores were equally important as those of their men to keep the home and the

family functioning.

     The members of Euro-American population are called whites or palefaces in Zitkala-Sa‟s memoir, as
well as all the institutions connected with them. I decided to use this terminology as well, in order to
stress Zitkala-Sa‟s viewpoint.

      Nowadays these prejudices regarding low status of Native American

women are disappearing. Moreover, some scholars emphasize the peculiar

focus of Native American women‟s memoirs: “The autobiographies of American

Indian women are generally concerned with the more private and intimate

aspects of their lives and cultures…” (Bataille and Sands 9). In this thesis, I

would like to develop arguments supporting this theory about the uniqueness of

Native American women‟s autobiographies by finding unusual and distinctive

episodes in Zitkala-Sa‟s memoirs and exploring the rhetorical devices she uses

in her descriptions. At the same time I would like to challenge the view of

women as inferior.

      Zitkala-Sa was one of the many uprooted children of her generation.

Some scholars have proposed that this experience made Zitkala-Sa a bicultural

author, which means that “she signs in a context that is inseparably Anglo and

Yankton; a context in which she is irreducible to either culture and alienated

from each” (Carpenter 1), and I would like to find an evidence of this

hypothesis in her autobiography.

      This thesis will also attempt to explore what particular aspects of Native

American culture are important for Zitkala-Sa and in what way she tries to

describe these to her readership.

      At first, the life of Zitkala-Sa, her childhood, studies and later

achievements of her career are described. Especially her childhood was very

important and inspirational for her writing – many of the stories published at

first as a series in Atlantic Monthly and later together under the name American

Indian Stories, actually took place in the early years of life and formed her

personality as well as her world view. Thus, Henderson‟s and Hoefel‟s

biographies of Zitkala-Sa are really helpful to draw a parallel between Zitkala-

Sa‟s actual life and the descriptions of it in her works. One of the main sources

regarding the period of Zitkala-Sa‟s childhood and the reflections of this period

in American Indian Stories is Carpenter‟s essay entitled “Zitkala-Sa and

Bicultural Subjectivity”. In this scholarly work Carpenter focuses on the events

of Zitkala-Sa‟s childhood that formed her later biculturalism and on the

reflections of bicultural context in Zitkala-Sa‟s narrative.

       Second, Zitkala-Sa‟s Old Indian Legends are mentioned; the collection in

which Zitkala-Sa tries to transcribe traditional Native American legends and

stories into a form intelligible also for her „white‟ audience. These are also

connected with her childhood, as she probably heard them back on the

reservation. The crucial part of these legends is formed by trickster figures,

which are also discussed in this thesis. The trickster theme is well elaborated on

in Carrol‟s article from the Ethos magazine, called “The Trickster as Selfish

Buffoon and Culture Hero.” This piece of work explores characteristics of

tricksters and the patterns of their behaviour. In order to define the legends

and other types of Native American stories, Bascom‟s and Reichard‟s theses are

cited. Many of the legends in Zitkala-Sa‟s collection involve a moral lesson, and

thus this topic is discussed in the thesis as well. In connection with Native

American legends and tribal stories, the restrictions placed on the revealing of

the inner secrets of tribe are touched upon, and some examples of Zitkala-Sa‟s

controlled writing in order with these restrictions are given.

2. American Indian Stories: Zitkala-Sa‟s Tale of Biculturalism

      According   to   Carpenter,   the   three   main   parts   of   the   largely

autobiographical collection of American Indian Stories were first published in

the Atlantic Monthly in 1900 under the titles “Impressions of an Indian

Childhood”, “The Schooldays of an Indian Girl” and “An Indian Teacher among

Indians”. These memoirs were reprinted in American Indian Stories, published

in 1921 and reissued in 1985 and 2003 (Carpenter 1).

      In this collection Zitkala-Sa gives an account of her life, since the early

childhood until her return to the reservation after her studies in the „white

schools‟. Throughout the whole autobiography, Zitkala-Sa does not define

herself to be part of either „white‟ or Native American culture – Carpenter

argues that she produces a bicultural context, in which the two cultures are

inseparably connected: “Her text clearly draws from both Yankton and Euro-

American cultural resources” (4). She does not privilege any of the cultures;

both gave her something good and taught her lots of things, but in both of the

cultures Zitkala-Sa finds some difficulties. She feels good among Native

American people, but is put into an outsider position due to her education.

Among the „whites‟ she faces prejudices against her origin, but they approve of

her education. Zitkala-Sa thus “combined her bicultural resources to produce a

new type of Indian, one that exceeds the prescriptive roles offered Native

American women by either culture” (Carpenter 2).

     This chapter focuses on Zitkala-Sa‟s childhood and on the way how her

growing up between the two cultures influenced her later writing. The first

subchapter deals with specific reflections of Zitkala-Sa‟s childhood in her

American Indian Stories. The main focus of the second subchapter is Zitkala-

Sa‟s education in the „white‟ schools and her emotional recount of this period in

the narrative. The third subchapter discusses the role of storytelling in Native

American culture as reflected in Zitkala-Sa‟s memoir, but also its role in general.

2.1. “Impressions of an Indian Childhood”: Bicultural Environment

and Its Influence on Zitkala-Sa‟s work

        In the first part of American Indian Stories, “Impressions of an Indian

Childhood, Zitkala-Sa draws a complex picture of Native American lifestyle of

that time by describing her childhood among Native Americans on the Pine

Ridge reservation and illustrating Native American customs and traditions.

        The lifestyle of the reservation had a major influence on Zitkala-Sa‟s

character. Until the arrival of Christian missionaries on the reservation, Zitkala-

Sa -according to her memoir - lived in a kind of paradise. All the adult members

of the Indian community on the reservation supported the children and were

very patient with them. Zitkala-Sa also describes the close relationship she had

with her mother who taught her how to behave towards elders, how to do

beadwork and how to cook, and told her stories about Indian spirits and brave

warriors. According to Kunce, in Zitkala-Sa‟s writings there is often seen a

parallel to the Bible, particularly to the Story of Eden, and in this Eden, her

mother was like God for the little girl (Kunce 75). Although she was adored by

her little daughter, she also commanded respect and obedience. Zitkala-Sa

writes in her memoir: “The quietness of her oversight made me feel strongly

responsible and dependent upon my own judgment. She treated me as a

dignified little individual as long as I was on my good behavior; and how

humiliated I was when some boldness of mine drew forth a rebuke from her!”

(“The Beadwork” 4).

      As there is no pagination in the e-text versions of Zitkala-Sa‟s books that I used for my analysis, I
refer to the specific chapters from either American Indian Stories or Old Indian Legends throughout my

       Besides her parent, another important element that influences Zitkala-Sa

and her world-view during her adolescence is the attitude of the adult

inhabitants of the reservation to the white people, or „palefaces,‟ as they call

them. It is shown right in the first chapter, called “My Mother,” on the example

of Zitkala-Sa‟s mother. When the seven-years-old Zitkala-Sa asks her, who the

paleface is, the mother‟s answer is: “My little daughter, he is a sham,-- a sickly

sham! The bronzed Dakota is the only real man.” The little girl quickly adopts

her mother‟s opinion and says that she “[hates] the paleface that makes [her]

mother cry!” People from Zitkala-Sa‟s mother‟s generation blame the „palefaces‟

for ruining their lives, because they had taken their land and had driven them

away “like a herd of buffalo” (“My Mother”). Many people had died during the

moving of the camps,5 and thus the ones, who survived adopt the same

attitude as Zitkala-Sa‟s mother who calls the paleface “heartless” in Zitkala-Sa‟s

memoir. Carpenter compares her tale about the removal to the Christian fall

from grace modernized in an American context: “In [Zitkala-Sa‟s] mother‟s

account, Indians are the innocent in America, the true inhabitants of the land,

wronged by the shameful deceptions of „palefaces‟” (7-8). „Whites‟ lose the

status of innocence, because under the influence of imperialism they commit

genocide on Native Americans in order to occupy the land. As a consequence,

“no group can view America as a sacred garden” (Carpenter 8). Moreover, it

was not only the land that Native American people had lost. They identified

themselves in terms of their land and thus were closely connected to it. The

      The best known examples of Native American people dying during the removal due to inhuman
conditions were the Trail of Tears and the Trail of Death, which both took place in 1830‟s. During the so
called Trail of Tears 4.000 Cherokees died and in the Trail of Death about 40 Indian children lost their
lives (from

Native Americans lost part of their culture together with their land; they lost

“the perception that they are privileged inhabitants” (Carpenter 8). This Native

American view of „whites‟ as their oppressors is perceptible in the recounting of

Zitkala-Sa‟s childhood; on the other hand, this kind of prejudices and maybe

even racism is evident also in the insolent behaviour of „whites‟ towards Native

Americans later in the narrative, when Zitkala-Sa describes her studies at the

„white‟ schools.

     Nevertheless, the Native American people, as described in the memoir,

had very positive attitudes to each other. All members of the tribe were

honoured and those who had performed some memorable act were almost

worshiped. The warriors of the tribe were looked up to and welcomed in every

wigwam. Zitkala-Sa‟s uncle, mentioned in the chapter called “Legends,” was

one of them: My uncle, whose death my mother ever lamented, was one of our

nation's bravest warriors… Every one loved him, and my mother worshipped his

memory. Thus it happened that even strangers were sure of welcome in our

lodge, if they but asked a favor in my uncle's name (“The Legends”).

     Hospitability is very common among the Sioux – it is an important way

how to show your honour and respect to other people. Zitkala-Sa also mentions

it many times – for example in the second chapter called “Legends”: “At noon,

several who chanced to be passing by stopped to rest, and to share our

luncheon with us, for they were sure of our hospitality.”

     Besides the social life on the reservation, Zitkala-Sa describes the

relationships in family - between children and their parents. In another chapter,

called “The Beadwork,” Zitkala-Sa shows to us something about learning and

teaching among the Sioux. As reported by Anderson, one of the most important

concepts in child-raising among Native American people in general is

observation. Almost everything the child learns is through observing the adults.

Children also have to be independent and often, since early childhood, have to

decide on their own. Observation also extended to nature and its mechanisms,

as children were encouraged to “observe animals and their habits, the weather,

and on what side of the tree the moss grew thickest. The lessons continued at

night in the lodge where elders asked what had been learned that day”

(Anderson 19). The adults made it possible for children to learn by letting the

children watch them or by purposely showing them how to do things.

Observation and patience were the most important notions. Thus even Zitkala-

Sa was taught how to do the beadwork: “Close beside my mother I sat on a

rug, with a scrap of buckskin in one hand and awl in the other. This was the

beginning of my practical observation lessons in the art of beadwork” (“The

Beadwork”). It took many trials for the little girl to produce such beadwork as

her mother did; her mother demanded independence from her and desired her

to finish whatever she began. She also wanted Zitkala-Sa to observe the

behaviour of other people on the reservation – for example when she went to

invite neighbours to a party. Zitkala-Sa reminisces in the chapter “The

Legends”: “I told my mother almost the exact words of the answers to my

invitation. Frequently she asked, „What were they doing when you entered their

tepee?‟ This taught me to remember all I saw at a single glance.”

     Another important notion in regard to teaching/learning and child-raising

which is present in the narrative is the “connection between memory and the

impression of fear” (Carpenter 22). If Zitkala-Sa was afraid of what would

happen if she would break some rule, she never actually broke it. But the fear

must have been more majestic than just the fear of her mother‟s disapproval –

it took shape of evil spirits or other supernatural powers, as in the story of the

dead man‟s plum bush.6 According to Carpenter, “In each circumstance, her

rude curiosity is restrained by a story that causes enough fear to prevent

Zitkala-Sa from forgetting the instructional words or repeating the uncivil

behaviour” (22).

        Among many other pieces of memories from her childhood, Zitkala-Sa also

mentions some actual persons, for example her favourite aunt. Zitkala-Sa liked

her because she was so different from her mother – while Zitkala-Sa‟s mother

was quiet and, although loving, she was also strict, the aunt was more cheerful:

“I was very fond of my aunt, because she was not so quiet as my mother.

Though she was older, she was more jovial and less reserved. She was slender

and remarkably erect. While my mother's hair was heavy and black, my aunt

had unusually thin locks” (“The Ground Squirell”). She came to their wigwam in

autumn, to help Zitkala-Sa‟s mother to preserve the food for winter. Another

ancestor of Zitkala-Sa mentioned in her memoir is her uncle, who was “one of

[the Sioux] nation‟s bravest warriors. His name was on the lips of old men

when talking of the proud feats of valor, and it was mentioned by younger

men, too, in connection with deeds of gallantry” (“The Legends”). Although

these people really lived, Zitkala-Sa never mentions their names in the text.

    See the section 2.3. “Importance of Storytelling and Legends as Reflected in American

Indian Stories.”

This might be a consequence of ancient restrictions imposed on the use of

some names among Native Americans. As Bloodworth argues, “In tribal life the

act of publicizing private experience was generally restricted to the immediate

family or community audience. Often even the telling of a person's name to

strangers was prohibited” (70).

2.2. Reflections of Zitkala-Sa‟s Education in “White” Schools

     Despite the close relationship with her mother and the contented life on

the reservation, Zitkala-Sa, as any other inquisitive child, was curious about the

„real‟ world outside the reservation and longed for education. According to

Henderson, at the age of eight Zitkala-Sa was tempted by the missionaries‟ talk

about White‟s Manual Institute in Wabash. The missionaries in chapter called

“The Big Red Apples” described the East as a place where “the nice red apples

are for those who pick them” and told Zitkala-Sa that if she will go with them,

she “will have a ride on the iron horse” (“The Big Red Apples”). Although

Zitkala-Sa‟s mother did not agree with her leaving the reservation, and although

she warned her that she will cry for her mother and the palefaces will not even

soothe her, Zitkala-Sa still desperately wanted to go and to “see the wonderful

Eastern land” (“The Big Red Apples”). As she writes, it was “the first turning

away from the easy, natural flow of [her] life” (“The Big Red Apples”). Little

Zitkala-Sa was determined to go to the country of “the big red apples;”

however, she soon regretted this decision (“The Land of Red Apples”). Zitkala-

Sa describes her arrival to the white school in these words: “Trembling with

fear and distrust of the palefaces, my teeth chattering from the chilly ride, I

crept noiselessly in my soft moccasins along the narrow hall, keeping very close

to the bare wall. I was as frightened and bewildered as the captured young of a

wild creature” (“The Big Red Apples”). In fact, Zitkala-Sa was curious and

anxious to see the world, but she did not realize the consequences of her

departure. She was young and inexperienced, and although her education later

brought its fruit, it also separated her from her mother and from her tribe in a


       It was on the first day in the new school that Zitkala-Sa realized that

nothing would be as easy as she thought. The „palefaces‟ did not understand

her and did not care about her feelings. In the chapter called “The Land of Big

Red Apples” Zitkala-Sa reminisces about how lost and lonely she felt:

       I had arrived in the wonderful land of rosy skies, but I was not happy, as I

had thought I should be. My long travel and the bewildering sights had

exhausted me. I fell asleep, heaving deep, tired sobs. My tears were left to dry

themselves in streaks, because neither my aunt nor my mother was near to

wipe them away (“The Land of Red Apples”).

       On the whole, Zitkala-Sa did not like the white school, where the children

had their hair cut and were not allowed to say a word unless they were asked

to. The Native American children‟s unfamiliarity with the English language was

the cause of many misunderstandings; one of them Zitkala-Sa describes in The

“Schooldays of an Indian Girl,” in the chapter called “The Snow Episode”. The

children used the only word they knew to reply to an angry teacher –

unfortunately the word was “no”:

             With an angry exclamation, the woman gave her a hard spanking.

             Then she stopped to say something. Judéwin said it was this: „Are

             you going to obey my word the next time?‟ Thowin answered again

             with the only word at her command, „No.‟ This time the woman

             meant her blows to smart, for the poor frightened girl shrieked at

             the top of her voice.

     Moreover, there was an iron routine in the school, which leisurely raised

Indian children never heard of before (“Iron Routine”). Their lives were directed

by the ringing of the bell and by stringent orders of the teachers. They were

awakened at half past six and summoned to breakfast, before which their

names were ticked off the long list. The routine absorbed them, as there was

no time to rebel against it between the tasks: “It was next to impossible to

leave the iron routine after the civilizing machine had once begun its day's

buzzing; …I have many times trudged in the day's harness heavy-footed, like a

dumb sick brute” (“Iron Routine”). In the end, as Zitkala-Sa herself wrote,

thanks to the drill in the white school, she grew bitter and “the melancholy of

those black days left so long a shadow that it darkens the path of the years that

have since gone by” (“Iron Routine”).

     In addition, the children at the school were stripped of their identities in

terms of clothes, the traditional hairstyle and even the mother tongue. The

episode describing the cutting of Zitkala-Sa‟s hair is very emotional; she is

determined to struggle because “among [her] people, short hair was worn by

mourners, and shingled hair by cowards” (“The Cutting of My Long Hair”). But

in the end, her efforts were unsuccessful:

            I cried aloud, shaking my head all the while until I felt the cold

            blades of the scissors against my neck, and heard them gnaw off

            one of my thick braids. Then I lost my spirit… Not a soul reasoned

            quietly with me, as my own mother used to do; for now I was only

            one of many little animals driven by a herder (“The Cutting of My

            Long Hair”).

     Furthermore, part of the children‟s acculturation was Christianity – the

teachers read Bible to them and wanted them to believe in an only Christian

God. However, the children adopted only some notions of the Christian belief –

one of them, as Zitkala-Sa writes, was the devil. She knew the stories of evil

spirits, but “never knew that there was an insolent chieftain among the bad

spirits, who dared to array his forces against the Great Spirit.” The mixing of

the two religious terminologies – the Christian devil and the Native Great Spirit

– shows the confusion of the children, but also their willingness to adopt the

„white‟ norms, their adaptability. The two cultures become one in the minds of

the uprooted children; they carry with themselves their Native experience, but

now gain another. “[Zitkala-Sa‟s] narrator‟s intermingling of cultural traditions,

and willingness to alternate between them to suit her purposes, suggests that

Zitkala-Sa does not experience them as distinct” (Carpenter 11).

     Despite these disappointing experiences, Zitkala-Sa studied three years in

the „white‟ school. After these she returned to the reservation and to her

mother. In the chapter called “Four Strange Summers” she shares with the

readers her experience with uprooting, estrangement and the feeling that she

belongs nowhere: “During this time I seemed to hang in the heart of chaos,

beyond the touch or voice of human aid…Even nature seemed to have no place

for me.” Zitkala-Sa was back on the reservation, among her people, but they

had changed too. Her peers had spent some time in the „white‟ schools too, and

they began to behave like „civilized‟ people. They became bicultural as well as

Zitkala-Sa did. They spoke English and wore the white men‟s dress to their

evening parties. Zitkala-Sa could speak English as well, but could not attend the

celebration, because she did not have a proper dress. Her mother was sad and

prayed to the dead warriors for Zitkala-Sa, but she could not find her position in

Native American society. She wanted to escape from her problems with


            Many schemes of running away from my surroundings hovered

            about in my mind. A few more moons of such a turmoil drove me

            away to the eastern school. I rode on the white man's iron steed,

            thinking it would bring me back to my mother in a few winters,

            when I should be grown tall, and there would be congenial friends

            awaiting me (“Four Strange Summers”).

Zitkala-Sa hoped to find her identity, and because she did not manage to do so

on the reservation, she tried her luck in the „white‟ society again. But it turned

out that there was not her place either.

     After another three years in schools, Zitkala-Sa was given her first

diploma. She wanted to continue on to college and asked her mother for

approval. Her mother disagreed with her daughter‟s studies; she wrote Zitkala-

Sa that she “had better give up [her] slow attempt to learn the white man's

ways, and be content to roam over the prairies and find [her] living upon wild

roots” (“Incurring My Mother‟s Displeasure”). Thus, mother and daughter are

separated by their different opinions, and Zitkala-Sa again shows her

„disobedience‟ and free will. Although she could do what she wanted, she

regretted that her mother did not support her decision. She writes: “homeless

and heavy-hearted, I began anew my life among strangers” (“Incurring My

Mother‟s Displeasure”).

     Other students‟ curious looks and her own loneliness at the college

depressed Zitkala-Sa and she once again longed for home, even though she

knew she would not find her place there either: “Often I wept in secret, wishing

I had gone West, to be nourished by my mother's love, instead of remaining

among a cold race whose hearts were frozen hard with prejudice” (“Incurring

My Mother‟s Displeasure”). Although Zitkala-Sa soon achieved the respect of

her fellow-students by her wit and knowledge, there were still people who saw

her as a savage Indian girl. At an oratorical contest, where different colleges

competed, she experienced humiliation from the „white‟ audience, who behaved

like „savages‟ themselves: “Here again was a strong prejudice against my

people… There, before that vast ocean of eyes, some college rowdies threw out

a large white flag, with a drawing of a most forlorn Indian girl on it… Such

worse than barbarian rudeness embittered me” (“Incurring My Mother‟s

Displeasure”). In the end, Zitkala-Sa won the contest, but the astringency of

this experience stayed with her forever. By describing a situation like this to her

readers, Zitkala-Sa wants them to remember and to prevent the repetition of

such behaviour to different ethnics, to be more respectful of others. Carpenter

argues that she uses the technique of connection of fear and memory, which

was already mentioned:

     As readers querying her Indian marks, we encounter her fearful tale of

assimilation. Zitkala-Sa‟s self-representation appeals to American readers as a

horror story, complete with detectives, witnesses, deferrals, and indirect

reported speech. In this sense, her autobiographical memoirs constitute a

gothic narrative that requires fear to be remembered. (Carpenter 22)

      Zitkala-Sa‟s descriptions of her embittering experience from her stay

among the „whites‟ are very emotional, she describes her inner feelings and her

deepest worries. She feels lost among the „whites‟, but does not find her place

among the Native Americans neither. According to Carpenter, “Zitkala-Sa‟s

narrator selects personal incidents that allow her to display an Indian

stereotype as well as iterate how Natives, such as herself, disrupt the Anglo

trope of racial typing” (3). Zitkala-Sa‟s narrative serves her as a verbal weapon,

which she might “employ against „modern‟ scientists and bureaucrats”, who

threatened the interests of Native Americans and their culture, and who

contributed to denigration of tribal communities (Hoxie 982).

2.3. The Crucial Role of Storytelling and Legends in Native American

Society and Its Reflections in American Indian Stories

      Marie L. McLoughlin describes the Dakota Sioux in the preface to her

book, which was published in 1916, as "simple, grave, and sincere people,

living in intimate contact and friendship with the big out-of-doors that we call

Nature" (2). Although her observations cannot be applied universally on all the

Sioux, in her opinion, they are honest and fair, and part of their character is the

desire “to seek to fathom the meaning of simple, everyday things and to learn

their lesson” (McLoughlin 2). Sioux people believe in the power of many spirits

who are responsible for the creation of everyday natural processes, as for

example rain or thunder, as well as for the creation of earth and people.

According to Anderson, “the Sioux believed that these supreme beings were

neither good nor evil” (17). Thus the Sioux try to live in harmony with nature

surrounding them in order not to make the spirits angry. That is why the

children among the Sioux are also taught that religion is closely connected with

other parts of daily life as hunting and tribal responsibilities. Anderson writes

that boys were encouraged to hunt and to share their catch with others. But

when an animal was killed, its spirit could cause a sickness for the village, so

there must be a sacrifice made. Some lessons of sacrifice were very hard for

the children because they had to sacrifice the dearest things to the Great Spirit

(Anderson 18). Anderson claims that all this knowledge was passed to the

youngsters by older members of the family (19).

       Thus, storytelling forms an important part of Native American culture. As

Greg Sarris describes: “Storytelling is a fundamental aspect of culture, and

stories are used in a number of ways and for a multitude of purposes. Stories

can work as cultural indexes for appropriate or inappropriate behaviour. They

can work to oppress or to liberate, to confuse or to enlighten” (4). The first and

maybe the primary purpose why Native American stories are being told and

written is to preserve Native American history, their culture and identity for the

next generations of their own people: “…for many Indian peoples, their sense

of history and its conduct are not just secular or abstract pursuits. For them, no

less than for any modern or New historian, the „doing of history‟ can become a

pathway to rediscoveries of identity, home and inner purpose” (Nabokov ix).

Stories serve as a means of education passed from the elders to the youngsters

and carry spiritual or moral meanings – children learn from them about their

tribes, about famous warriors but also about moral rules and customs. As there

was usually no written history of the tribe in the past centuries, everything was

passed through storytelling.

      As regards the types of „stories‟, Reichard argues that there are two

basic types in Native American environment: tales and myths. According to her,

“myths relate incidents which happened at a time when the world had not

assumed its present form, and when mankind was not yet in possession of all

the customs and arts which belong to our period. Tales are stories of our

modern period” (269). From this follows that Zitkala-Sa in her American Indian

Stories presents to us her tale, enriched with a touch of Native American


      Storytelling and legends in American Indian Stories are mentioned for

the first time in the second chapter called “Legends.” As described by Zitkala-

Sa, the legends were told by the elders, usually when they were invited over for

supper. They sat around the fire in a great circle and told stories. Zitkala-Sa

reminisces: “I loved best the evening meal, for that was the time old legends

were told…I ate my supper in quiet, listening patiently to the talk of the old

people, wishing all the time that they would begin the stories I loved best.”

     Native American legends are connected with the entire world and its

creation; they relate to trees, plants and animals and their origin, but also to

the objects of everyday use or to some special places nearby. Such is the

legend about the dead man‟s plum bush, which relates to a particular bush on

the reservation where Zitkala-Sa and her mother lived. One day, on their way

to a feast, little Zitkala-Sa and her mother passed a bush with plums. When

Zitkala-Sa wanted to pick a plum for herself, she was stopped by her mother.

She asked her mother why she cannot have a plum from the bush and was


            Never pluck a single plum from this bush, my child, for its roots are

            wrapped around an Indian's skeleton. A brave is buried here. While

            he lived he was so fond of playing the game of striped plum seeds

            that, at his death, his set of plum seeds were buried in his hands.

            From them sprang up this little bush (“The Dead Man‟s Plum


     Besides, that storytelling was a very important part of Native American

culture in Zitkala-Sa‟s time is obvious from the wide knowledge of stories and

legends among the Natives mentioned in her narrative. The eight-years-old

Zitkala-Sa was very well aware of the legends and stories which she heard from

her relatives and elders of the tribe: “Among the legends the old warriors used

to tell me were many stories of evil spirits. But I was taught to fear them no

more than those who stalked about in material guise.”

      Moreover, each Native American culture, each tribe has its secrets, known

only to its members. Thus, since childhood, Native Americans are taught to

monitor their behaviour and to develop analytical skills and civil behaviour to

others. The secrets which represent the accumulated body of social and

spiritual knowledge of the tribe, cannot be revealed to unauthorized people.

According to Carpenter,

             this education informs the [Zitkala-Sa‟s] persona‟s literary

             rhetorics, since she adheres to its civil principles when writing to

             her Euroamerican audience…Her subscription to these social

             conventions guides what material appears in her autobiography.

             She does not reveal the inner secrets of the tribe. (17-18)

      An example of such restriction can be found in the chapter called

“Legends,” when little Zitkala-Sa asks about the tattooed crosses on the cheeks

of an old woman. Although Zitkala-Sa at the time of writing the story probably

already knew the meaning of the tattoos, she does not explain them for the

reader. Neither in Old Indian Legends does Zitkala-Sa give any explanation

regarding paint on the cheeks of warriors or the social norms, marriage and so


       Restrictions are also placed on some kinds of use of names – for instance

the name of a dead warrior cannot be used again, although it is memorized by

his relatives. Some of the tribes “tend to avoid discussions of death and dying,

and the name of the dead person is not spoken” (Braun, Pietsch and Blanchette


3. Old Indian Legends: Zitkala-Sa‟s Transcription of Native American

Traditions into the „Oppressor‟s‟ Language

      William Bascom describes Native American legends as telling “the

purported history of a people” (9). According to him, the legends, although

seldom approximately accurate, are usually believed to be completely true

(Bascom 9).

     As Zitkala-Sa writes, in her Old Indian Legends she “tried to transplant the

native spirit of these tales -- root and all – into the English language, since

America in the last few centuries has acquired a new tongue” (Preface to Old

Indian Legends). She attempted to revitalize oral traditions in order to recover

Native American cultural identity. This „translation‟ of Native American legends

into English represents another sign of Zitkala-Sa‟s biculturalism – she blends

the two cultures together, she uses the “oppressor‟s” language to transcribe the

history of her people and thus to introduce her culture to the „whites‟.

        Even though Native American mythology is different from that of

Europe, some of the legends resemble European fairy-tales in their form – as

for example “The Tree-bound.” In this legend, a village is being threatened by a

red eagle which eats people. The chief offers one of his daughters to the man

who would kill the eagle, but no one succeeds, until the avenger with a magic

arrow comes. This search for a hero who would save the kingdom, and thus

would ensure a happy-ending, is typical for many European fairy tales. Likewise

the casting of the spell on the hero by Iktomi resembles some of the European

fairy-tales, where obstructions are laid into the hero‟s way by evil spirits.

Bascom even lists trickster tales under the heading of folktales; according to

him, the folktales “have also been known as „fairy tales‟”. He argues that “a

variety of sub-types of folktales can be distinguished including human tales,

animal tales, trickster tales, tall tales, dilemma tales, formulistic tales, and

moral tales or fables” (4).

         On the other hand, many of the legends do not have a fairy-tale

happy-ending in the real sense. Most of them end with a moral lesson, not

unlike in the genre of fables. The similarity between Native American legends

and fables is in the use of allegory and animals with human qualities. As Porter

puts it, the blending of European and Native American stories is part of dynamic

cultural diversity. Thanks to the extensive trade routes, borrowing from

surrounding cultures occurred, and together with reinventions continued even

after the arrival of Europeans (4-5).

         This chapter focuses on the way how Zitkala-Sa retells the Native

American legends and it explores the important elements of the stories, as for

example trickster figures and moral lessons involved. In the first subchapter,

the trickster, its traits and the role it plays in Native American society are

discussed. The second subchapter deals with the educational aspects of the

legends and its representations in Zitkala-Sa‟s collection.

3.1. Trickster Figures in Old Indian Legends

      In Native American storytelling there often re-emerges a trickster figure.

It is an important part of the stories and legends and appears in many

narratives of Native American cultures, but also in narratives of other cultures

throughout the world. Trickster is a special kind of humour, but at the same

time it often gives morals in the stories. Gerald Vizenor argues that the trickster

is a communal sign. It is also a kind of god, goddess or spirit, who appears in

human or animal shape. The most frequent animal forms of trickster are

coyote, raven and hare. According to Carroll,

             the Indian trickster is first and foremost a „selfish-buffoon‟--

             „selfish‟ because so much of the trickster's activity is oriented

             toward the gratification of his enormous appetites for food and

             sex, and „buffoon‟ because the elaborate deceits that the trickster

             devises in order to satisfy these appetites so often backfire and

             leave the trickster looking incredibly foolish. (106)

     Trickster plays tricks on others but is often also a victim of such tricks

itself. It usually brings some moral to the narrative, but sometimes it is present

just for fun. “He is positively identified with creative powers, often bringing

such defining features of culture as fire or basic food, and yet he constantly

behaves in the most antisocial manner we can imagine” (Babcock-Abrahams).

The trickster is also a kind of cultural hero, because he “is often the agent

responsible for creating the conditions that allowed for the development of

human civilization” (Carroll 106).

      The most often mentioned trickster figure in Zitkala-Sa‟s Old Indian

Legends is Iktomi, “a spider fairy.” According to Carroll, he is the most wide-

spread trickster among the Dakota Sioux, Winnebago, Assinibone, Omaha and

Ponca tribes, although he carries a slightly different name in each tribe. He has

spread there through a process of cultural diffusion (Carroll 107). Although he

is “a wily fellow” and “his hands are always kept in mischief,” Zitkala-Sa makes

a digression to pity him, because he is lonely and has no one to rely on: “Poor

Iktomi cannot help being a little imp. And so long as he is a naughty fairy, he

cannot find a single friend. No one helps him when he is in trouble. No one

really loves him” (“Iktomi and the Ducks”). Zitkala-Sa maybe had such feelings

herself, when she studied at the „white‟ schools, but it is the only thing that she

and the trickster have in common. Iktomi is “wily” and lazy, and instead of

earning his living by hunting food for himself, he wanders around and plays

tricks on his victims in order to feed himself and sometimes even just for fun:

“Iktomi is a wily fellow. His hands are always kept in mischief. He prefers to

spread a snare rather than to earn the smallest thing with honest hunting.

Why! he laughs outright with wide open mouth when some simple folk are

caught in a trap, sure and fast” (“Iktomi and the Ducks”). In Zitkala-Sa‟s Old

Indian Legends, Iktomi is the connecting element of the stories which holds the

collection together. He appears in ten of the fourteen stories and some of them,

describing his peripeties, actually form successive series.

      Besides, there is another trickster, who plays his part in Zitkala-Sa‟s

collection – the Rabbit. Rabbit or Hare is another animal widely associated with

trickster figures, in addition to the spider. “Manstin, the Rabbit” calls himself

kind-hearted and tries to help people and other „good creatures‟; he also warns

them against Iktomi: “MANSTIN was an adventurous brave, but very kind-

hearted. Stamping a moccasined foot as he drew on his buckskin leggins, he

said: „Grandmother, beware of Iktomi! Do not let him lure you into some

cunning trap. I am going to the North country on a long hunt‟” (“Manstin, the

Rabbit”). However, his behaviour is foolish because he does not appreciate

what he has and is in a constant search of something better.

        Moreover, in one of the legends, Iktomi meets the Coyote. According

to Carroll, the Coyote is the most well-known trickster (107). Zitkala-Sa

describes him in this way: “A sleek gray-faced prairie wolf! his pointed black

nose tucked in between his four feet drawn snugly together; his handsome

bushy tail wound over his nose and feet; a coyote fast asleep in the shadow of

a bunch of grass!--this is what Iktomi spied” (“Iktomi and the Coyote”). The

coyote is even foxier than Iktomi and just quietly takes his chance of being

carried over the prairie on Iktomi‟s back.

        Also Iya, the Camp Eater is in my opinion a trickster figure. He is an

evil spirit, who takes the shape of a baby in order to get into an Indian village.

He is neither animal nor human. His real appearance is described in the

following manner: “his huge body toppled to and fro, from side to side, on a

pair of thin legs far too small for their burden” (“Iya, the Camp Eater”).

        In the remaining legends, the „main heroes‟ are usually animals –

eagle, toad, turtle, grasshopper, fish and dragonfly. Although these are not

tricksters in the real sense, there is actually some connection between the

trickster and these animals with human traits. This connection is “established

either by virtue of the name given to the trickster or by attributing to the

trickster certain animal traits” (Carroll 110). On the other hand, according to

Carroll, there are “only four animal categories that end up being associated with

seven basic tricksters. These four are coyote, raven, hare, and spider” (110).

         Zitkala-Sa‟s descriptions of the tricksters show her knowledge of old

tribal legends which she tries to translate in such a way that they are intelligible

for her „white‟ readers. She, again, in the name of biculturalism, tries to connect

the two cultures together by sharing the Native American legends with

„palefaces‟. Legends in her version are readable and entertaining, and bring the

reader closer to Native American culture in an unobtrusive and amusing way.

3.2. Morals Involved in Legends and Their Educational Value

       Legends, as recounted in Zitkala-Sa‟s Old Indian Legends, often contain

some moral lesson. As storytelling and legends served as a means of education

for children as well as for adults, the legends not only gave account of the

origin of the world around us, but also taught children how to behave. Bascom

argues that although these stories were told above all for amusement, they

actually have other important functions as well, and he even distinguishes a

special category of moral tales (4).

     In the first of Old Indian Legends, called “Iktomi and the Ducks,” the

readers or listeners are acquainted with the story of curious and trustful ducks

who are lured into a trap by the “wily” Iktomi. He makes them dance with

closed eyes in exchange for his bundle of songs, but instead he kills them one

by one, until one of the ducks opens his curious eyes. Although Iktomi is

punished in the end, having trapped himself watching the wolves eat his feast,

the ducks are still dead. Reading it in Zitkala-Sa‟s version and in connection

with the notion of the alliance between fear and memory, children surely

remembered not to be too curious and talk with strangers.

     The second story, “Iktomi‟s Blanket,” speaks in favour of Carroll‟s theory

of tricksters as selfish buffoons. As Carroll says:

              The trickster seeks the immediate gratification of all those sexual

              desires (where "sexual" refers to any activity, including sexual

              intercourse, excretion, and eating, that produces a diffused sense

              of physical pleasure) that all of us have, but which most of us

              learn to inhibit as we mature (113).

     In this story, Iktomi begs the Great Spirit to give him food, because he is

hungry again, after the wolves have eaten his ducks: “„Oh! I'll go to Inyan, the

great-grandfather, and pray for food!‟ he exclaimed. At once he hurried forth

from his teepee and, with his blanket over one shoulder, drew nigh to a huge

rock on a hillside. With half-crouching, half-running strides, he fell upon Inyan

with outspread hands” (“Iktomi‟s Blanket”). Iktomi sacrifices his blanket, but

after he is given venison, he wants his blanket back. He does not appreciate

what the Great Spirit has done for him, he still wants more. Ultimately, he is left

hungry but with his blanket.

       That Iktomi is not grateful for what he has and wants constantly

something else, something better, can be seen as well in another story called

“Iktomi and Fawn.” Iktomi is tired of being his old self and is twice changed by

creatures he adores – a peacock and an arrow, but he breaks the only condition

they gave him and the spell vanishes. In the end, Iktomi wants to have brown

spots on his face like a fawn: “„fawn, my friend, will you do the same for me?

Won't you mark my face with brown, brown spots just like yours?‟ asked

Iktomi, always eager to be like other people” (“Iktomi and the Fawn”). This

desire almost costs Iktomi his own life as he helps to dig his own grave. Maybe

stories like this are the reason why Native American people, at least as

described by Zitkala-Sa, are so thankful and modest – they know that by

wanting more they could lose what they actually have.

       Besides, in some stories the morals are explicitly specified and stated.

For example in “Iktomi and Muskrat,” the muskrat is the one who teaches a

lesson to Iktomi and who moralizes. After Iktomi proposes a race for his pot of

boiled fish because he does not want to share, the muskrat is the first to arrive

and eats the fish himself, saying: "Next time, say to a visiting friend, 'Be seated

beside me, my friend. Let me share with you my food.'" Another useful advice,

although not a moral, comes from the mouth of the coyote-trickster, who

outwitted Iktomi: "Another day, my friend, do not take too much for granted.

Make sure the enemy is stone dead before you make a fire!" Such morals

resemble European proverbs and can be easily memorized by children.

        Besides, in some of the stories, the moral lesson is expressed in a quite

morbid way – or at least it is so if the stories should serve for moral education

of children. In the story called “Iktomi and the Turtle,” Iktomi, after trying to

win a contest with Patkasa, the turtle, is outwitted by him and drowns in the

river as he is being watched by his children. Although Iktomi is a kind of evil

spirit, his deeds did not call for revenge in the form of killing. Probably, such

end of the story is a part of the already mentioned fear memory strategy; it

should produce fear in order to be remembered by all its readers and listeners.

4. Conclusion

       By describing her life among Native Americans and later also among

„white‟ people in American Indian Stories, Zitkala-Sa made an attempt to show

how Native people live in general – many of them share the same experience

as her. Thus, in her narrative she tried to keep from being too personal.

According to Carpenter, she avoided many biographical details that would make

the text too subjective so that her story could be applied to many others. She

generalized her experiences and thus presented her childhood as the norm for

all Native Americans (12). As Stanley wrote, “Zitkala-Sa attempted to show how

her life is transcribed in the cultural life of her people, or, in Toni Morrison's

words, to demonstrate how „the single solitary life is like the lives of the tribe.‟

Thus, for Zitkala-Sa, the private self is also a cultural construct” (64).

     At the same time, thanks to absence of an interpreter or ethnographer in

the process of writing, her narrative is very emotional and sometimes even

intimate. Zitkala-Sa presents Native American life with all its essentials; not only

does she make points about dwelling, gathering food, beadwork and cooking,

storytelling, religion and social norms, but she also describes her inner feelings,

worries and concerns. According to Bataille and Sands, “the [woman‟s]

autobiography does not focus on the public role of the narrator, but rather on

reminiscences of girlhood, family life, pre-reservation life ways, and personal

growth…[These autobiographies] are private lives, allowing the reader glimpses

into the intimate working of individual women‟s experience” (8). Zitkala-Sa‟s

private life thus serves as an illustration of the reservation life in general.

     For Zitkala-Sa, it was important to illustrate how her people lived, not only

in order to preserve the customs and traditions and recount social life for the

next generations, but also to educate „whites‟ in a way. At the time when

Zitkala-Sa wrote her stories, not much was known to ordinary Euro-Americans

about how the Native Americans lived, and the images that „whites‟ carried in

their minds were biased by the stories of missionaries who talked about Natives

as of savages. As Hoxie writes,

              by describing ancient traditions and recounting tales of their

              childhoods, Indian authors could both serve up satisfying,

              „authentic‟ experiences and preserve tribal traditions…the authors

              assumed the role of a storyteller who could assure white readers

              that the tale was authentic, not because it was scientific, but

              because it was personal (980).

       Zitkala-Sa encounters two cultures during her life, but in her view, these

cultures are interconnected. She blends these two cultures together, and

incorporates into her life elements from both the Christian (or Anglo) culture

and Native American culture. “In short, Zitkala-Sa‟s life story is framed as an

interfusion of cultural practices” (Carpenter 5). Zitkala-Sa grew up on the

reservation, but the lifestyle she experiences is different from the lifestyle of her

ancestors. She speaks English, she can wear the same dress as her Euro-

American peers and she uses „white‟ products – a coffeepot or a canvas instead

of buffalo hide. According to Carpenter, “adapting to whites and their goods is

an essential component for Zitkala-Sa‟s type of Indian” (6). Her ancestors are

not as significant as the bicultural background in which she lives – that is why

she does not begin her autobiography with a detailed genealogy, but rather

introduces the background she lives in and the personalities which are

important for her.

      Furthermore, Christianity - as a part of the „white‟ culture - and especially

biblical myths form an essential constituent of Zitkala-Sa‟s narrative. Not only

does she mention these myths and various biblical characters, as for example

the devil or the story of big red apples, but her own story can be seen as a

parallel to some of these myths. According to Kunce, Zitkala-Sa is retelling the

Garden of Eden story: “In casting her mother as God, her brother as Adam, the

missionaries as the Serpent, and herself as Eve, Zitkala-Sa reveals the

catastrophic consequences of forced relinquishment of her language, and

subsequently of her culture” (Kunce 73). At the end, Zitkala-Sa is expelled from

the Garden, because she breaks her mother‟s commandment.

      For Zitkala-Sa, the most important aspects of Native American culture

seem to be those she missed in white society – loyalty, hospitability and respect

to other people, but also the connection with nature and spirits. That is why

she tried to carry a piece of her culture with her on the second journey to the

east, which she describes in chapter called “Incurring My Mother‟s Displeasure”:

“In the second journey to the East I had not come without some precautions. I

had a secret interview with one of our best medicine men, and when I left his

wigwam I carried securely in my sleeve a tiny bunch of magic roots. This

possession assured me of friends wherever I should go.” Her portraits of her

favourite environment – the reservation – are vivid and colourful, almost as if

described by a child‟s eyes. Zitkala-Sa very well remembers the feeling of

“roaming around the prairie” in a pair of “soft moccasins.” On the other hand,

in her descriptions of Native American social conventions, Zitkala-Sa tries to

teach her readers how to behave to each other; „in return‟ she learns something

about Euro-American culture as well – for example the language.

      In the final analysis, Zitkala-Sa‟s description of her childhood in American

Indian Stories, although autobiographical, “struggles with the predominant

(European, male) paradigm of autobiography, creating a narrative which in

both form and content rejects the notion of a unified, coherent, transcendent

identity achieved through linguistic self-authentication” (Cutter 33). Zitkala-Sa

does not describe her life day by day, event by event. Instead, she points out

the memories or the events which are the most important for her, and lines

them up in a more or less chronological order. We “hear” the stories in virtually

the same form in which Zitkala-Sa used to hear other people‟s stories on the

reservation. Together with the simple, yet emotive language she uses and with

her detailed portrayal of social practices on the reservation, this adds to the

readability and adventurous nature of her memoir.

      In Old Indian Legends Zitkala-Sa assumes the role of a translator – she

translates the Native American Legends into English, but she also interprets

these legends so that the „white‟ audience could better understand them. Hoxie

argues that “the Indian authors posed as bearers of an ancient spirit in the

modern age” (981). Thus, by publishing her collection of Native American tales

celebrating the virtues of native culture, Zitkala-Sa “came forward promising to

deliver version of [her] culture that could stand as authentic alternative to the

alienation of modern life” (Hoxie 981). Zitkala-Sa herself wrote in her Old

Indian Legends that “these legends are relics of [her] country‟s once virgin

soil;” by publishing them, she wanted to bring back the inherited Native

American values – as for example hospitability, charitable attitude to other

people and to nature – which were once common to all Native Americans, but

now are “undermined by industrialization and organized religion” (Hoxie 981).

      For Zitkala-Sa, the legends of her tribe are equally important as the Bible

for her Christian audience; she shows her resistance to “European American‟s

negative representations of Native life, and to their positive representations of

European American life” (Spack 221). Her legends bring not only amusement,

but also education in form of moral lessons. These morals formed an important

component of Native American upbringing of children.

     By asserting a bicultural context, by proving that she is able to study in

the same schools and use the same language as her „white‟ audience, Zitkala-

Sa “redresses the public‟s crude, childish notions of the other as an inferior”

(Carpenter 9). Through her writings, Zitkala-Sa makes a vital link between the

oral tradition of indigenous tribal cultures and the written tradition of literate

colonizers (Stanley 65).

     In my opinion, Zitkala-Sa‟s narrative is written in easy-reading and

interesting way, with main focus on her personal feelings and on the way how

she perceived various problems connected with living between the two cultures

back in her childhood. She points out to both the negative and the positive

elements of each of the cultures and makes it possible for the reader to

compare the two societies for himself/herself.

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                                    English Resume

       This bachelor thesis explores various aspects of Native American culture

as reflected in the autobiographical works of Zitkala-Sa, Native American author

known also under name Gertrude Simmons Bonnin. In her American Indian

Stories Zitkala-Sa depicts her childhood, her life on the reservation and also her

studies in the Euro-American schools; in Old Indian Legends she tries to

transcribe traditional Native American legends into a language intelligible for

her Euro-American audience.

     The thesis points out the peculiar focus of Native American women‟s

memoirs and autobiographies, which are more emotive and intimate than those

written by males.     Zitkala-Sa‟s memoir focuses on everyday events as well as

on her personal feelings, worries and concerns. She does not produce a day-by-

day account of her life, but rather acquaints the reader with the aspects of her

culture which are most important for her.

     Because Zitkala-Sa belongs among many uprooted Native American

children of her time, her stories and legends connect Native American and

Euro-American/Christian cultures; she constantly blends these two together and

thus produces a bicultural text. This thesis provides evidence of her

biculturalism and illustrates it on particular parts of her narratives.

                                    Czech Resume

       Tato bakalářská práce se zabývá různými aspekty indiánské kultury, jak

jsou vyobrazeny v autobiografických dílech Zitkala-Sy, indiánské autorky známé

též pod jménem Gertrude Simmons Bonnin. Ve sbírce American Indian Stories

(Indiánské příběhy) Zitkala-Sa líčí své dětství, život v rezervaci a také svá studia

na Euro-Amerických školách; ve sbírce Old Indian Legends se pak snaží přepsat

tradiční indiánské legendy do jazyka srozumitelného i pro její Euro-Americké


       Tato práce poukazuje na neobvyklé zaměření memoárů a autobiografií

napsaných indiánskými ženami; tyto autobiografie jsou emotivnější a intimnější

než ty, které byly napsány autory mužského pohlaví. Zitkala-Sin memoár se

zaměřuje na každodenní události stejně jako na její osobní pocity, starosti a

obavy. Zitkala-Sa nepodává výčet svého života den po dni, ale seznamuje

čtenáře s těmi aspekty indiánské kultury, které jsou pro ni nejdůležitější.

       Vzhledem k tomu, že Zitkala-Sa patří mezi mnoho vykořeněných

indiánských dětí své doby, její příběhy a legendy v sobě spojují indiánskou a

Euro-Americkou kulturu. Zitkala-Sa neustále mísí tyto dvě kultury a vytváří tak

bikulturální kontext. Tato práce se snaží najít důkaz o jejím bikulturalismu

v jejích dílech a ilustrovat jej na jednotlivých částech jejího vyprávění.


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