The Flight of the Red Bird: The Life of Zitkala-Sa


Taken from her family on the Yankton Sioux Reservation at the age of eight and sent to a school far from home, Gertrude is forced to become "civilized"--to give up her moccasins, her long hair, and her language, and to renounce her Sioux heritage. As an adult, she renames herself Zitkala-¬Sa, which means "Red Bird," and devotes her life to fighting for justice for Native Americans. Her powerful and memorable story, told in her own words, will ...
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Taken from her family on the Yankton Sioux Reservation at the age of eight and sent to a school far from home, Gertrude is forced to become "civilized"--to give up her moccasins, her long hair, and her language, and to renounce her Sioux heritage. As an adult, she renames herself Zitkala-¬Sa, which means "Red Bird," and devotes her life to fighting for justice for Native Americans. Her powerful and memorable story, told in her own words, will inspire anyone who has ever dreamed of making a difference.

"A remarkable story....Red Bird's own words bring her anguish and confusion to life." --Booklist

"A nearly seamless blend of autobiography and biography." --Joseph Bruchac
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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Gisela Jernigan
Using many excerpts from Zitkala-Sa's own writings, the author has created a uniquely authentic and vivid biography/autobiography of this Yankton Sioux reformer. From the year 1884, when 8-year-old Zitkala-Sa (Red Bird), was taken from her mother's home on the reservation to spend many years at an Indian boarding school in Indiana, where the philosophy was to destroy everything Indian in the students. This articulate young woman was torn between her traditional Indian culture and the imposed white way of life. Thus she spent most of her adult life using her talents for writing and speaking to try and help her people by showing the dominant society the strength of Indian values and how they were being mistreated. This very worthwhile account includes black and white photos, an index, bibliography, glossary, list of sources, and a timeline of important dates.
Children's Literature - Mary Sue Preissner
Using personal and public documents, Rappaport has told the story of Red Bird, a Yankton Sioux woman who, in her later life, became an activist for Native American rights. It chronicles her early life on the reservation, daughter of a white man who named her Gertrude. Nonetheless, being part white did not save her from the Indian agents who, during this time in history, forced children to be sent to boarding schools where they would become "civilized." While this education process developed her writing, musical and oratorical talents that served her well in adulthood, it also caused her to renounce her heritage, her language, dress, customs and religious beliefs. Gertrude Bonnin turned her anger against the white man into a powerful voice for the Indian nations, becoming a crusader for Indian rights.
VOYA - Paula Lacey
Born in 1876 to a Yankton mother and a white father, Gertrude Bonnin led a contradictory but meaningful life as an American Indian activist, lecturer, teacher, and musician. Rappaport, an awarding-winning YA author, spent years researching this fascinating woman and has produced an insightful "autobiographical biography" that will appeal to the YA penchant for justice, individuality, and freedom. Gertrude was born soon after the Yankton nation was confined to a reservation in South Dakota. She attended a missionary boarding school in the East where she endured loneliness, drudgery, and indignity, but excelled in her studies and in music. Young American Indian students were compelled to adopt the white religion, and many students were ill--some died. When Gertrude returned to the reservation at age fifteen, she began to feel the conflicts that would dog her all of her life. She felt suspended between two worlds, no longer a Yankton maiden, but not accepted by the white world. Gertrude changed her name to Zitkala-S, ("red bird"), married Raymond Bonnin, a Yankton, and worked tirelessly for justice on the reservations. She and Raymond joined the newly formed Society of American Indians and she was an early member of the advisory board. In spite of her criticism of white religion being forced on American Indian children, Zitkala-S, became a devout Catholic and sent her son to a Benedictine boarding school. Her life is filled with such contradictions. After moving to Washington, D.C., in 1917, Zitkala-S, lobbied Congress on behalf of Native Americans. Though she never achieved the political clout that she dreamed of and realized that she could not live without the white culture and religion that she often condemned, Zitkala-S, is an unsung heroine in Native American history. This is an ideal book for school and public libraries that need biographical material on Native Americans or American women. Index. Photos. Biblio. Source Notes. Further Reading. Chronology. VOYA Codes: 5Q 2P J S (Hard to imagine it being any better written, For the YA with a special interest in the subject, Junior High-defined as grades 7 to 9 and Senior High-defined as grades 10 to 12).
School Library Journal
Gr 5 UpGertrude Bonnin (1876-1938) was born on the Nakota, or Yankton, Sioux reservation in South Dakota. At the age of eight, she went to a Quaker boarding school in Indiana, the first of several she would attend, against her mother's wishes. Bonnin was never able to return to her life as an Indian. Relying heavily on Bonnin's own writings, letters, and diaries, as well as other primary sources and conversations with descendants, Rappaport allows her subject to speak for herself about the heartbreak, confusion, and rebellion toward her education in various boarding schools. Consequently, this account dwells most heavily on her schooling and early adult years, during which time she took the name Zitkala-Sa. Unfortunately, her later experiences as an Indian-rights activist are not given much coverage in the book; Rappaport only whets readers' appetite for additional details. The overall impression that one receives from these writings is one of loss and unhappiness, a result of the profound identity crisis that the woman felt stranded between the Indian and white worlds. This well-documented, uniquely presented book, illustrated with black-and-white photographs, should strike a chord among adolescents establishing their own identities.Lisa Mitten, University of Pittsburgh, PA
Kirkus Reviews
In this moving work, Rappaport (Tinker vs. Des Moines, 1993, etc.) adroitly recreates the life of a Native American woman born in 1876 on the Yankton Reservation in South Dakota who was forced to give up her cultural heritage and become "civilized"—the consequence of which was her lifelong activism.

At the age of eight, Gertrude left her home to attend a boarding school in Indiana; if she did not, her mother's food rations would be cut. As an adult, Gertrude wrote articles for the Atlantic Monthly describing her humiliation at how the US government tried to destroy tribal unity and traditional life and culture, signing her articles "Zitkala-Sa," or Red Bird. Her letters, journals, poetry, and memoirs track the "pain of her assimilation and her difficult journey back." In order to help unite Indians into a political force, Zitkala-Sa became active in the National Council of American Indians. An introduction explains how Rappaport assembled the material for her "autobiographical biography," and the changes she made, based on her research. No matter how the book is categorized, readers will relish Zitkala-Sa's upholding of the warrior tradition with the "new weapons learned from her enemy—her pen, the English language, and her organizational persistence."

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780803714380
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 7/1/1997
  • Pages: 208
  • Age range: 9 - 13 Years
  • Product dimensions: 9.24 (w) x 6.54 (h) x 0.74 (d)

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