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Zitkala-Sa (Gertrude Simmons Bonnin)


Among the contingent of Americans performing at the Paris Exposition in 1900 was Gertrude Simmons Bonnin. Bonnin performed as a violin soloist with the Carlisle Indian Band of Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Bonnin, who would later adopt the Sioux tribal name of Zitkala-Sa, was familiar with the objectives of eastern "Indian" schools like the one in Carlisle. She herself had attended White's Indiana Manual Labor Institute in Wabash, Indiana. The daughter of a full-blooded Sioux mother and a white father she never knew, Zitkala-Sa turned what she called a "miserable state of cultural dislocation" into a prize-winning speech, "The School Days of an Indian Girl."

Initially drawn to the world of literature, Zitkala-Sa decided to instead devote her life to working on behalf of and educating Native Americans. In 1916 she was elected secretary of the Society of the American Indian and went on to edit the American Indian Magazine. Laboring in defense of "Indian citizenship, employment of Indians in the Bureau of Indian Affairs, equitable settlement of tribal land claims, and stabilization of laws relating to Indians," Zitkala-Sa founded the National Council of American Indians in 1926.
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