Zitkala-Ša (Lakota: Zitkála-Šá, meaning Red Bird; February 22, 1876 – January 26, 1938) was a Yankton Dakota writer, editor, translator, musician, educator, and political activist. She was also known by her Anglicized and married name, Gertrude Simmons Bonnin. She wrote several works chronicling her struggles with cultural identity, and the pull between the majority culture in which she was educated, and the Dakota culture into which she was born and raised. Her later books were among the first works to bring traditional Native American stories to a widespread white English-speaking readership.
She was co-founder of the National Council of American Indians in 1926, which was established to lobby for Native people’s right to United States citizenship and other civil rights they had long been denied. Zitkala-Ša served as the council’s president until her death in 1938. Zitkala-Ša has been noted as one of the most influential Native American activists of the 20th century. Working with American musician William F. Hanson, Zitkala-Ša wrote the libretto and songs for The Sun Dance Opera (1913), the first American Indian opera. It was composed in romantic musical style, and based on Sioux and Ute cultural themes. Zitkala-Ša was born on February 22, 1876, on the Yankton Indian Reservation in South Dakota. She was raised by her mother, Ellen Simmons, whose Dakota name was Thaté Iyóhiwiŋ (Every Wind or Reaches for the Wind). Her father was a Frenchman named Felker, who abandoned the family when Zitkala-Ša was very young.
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