Who was Zitkala-Sa? Google Doodle honors activist who fought for Native Indian rights on birth anniversary

Better known as Gertrude Simmons Bonnin, Zitkala-Sa fought for the indigenous people's right to the United States citizenship and other civil rights they had been denied


                            Who was Zitkala-Sa? Google Doodle honors activist who fought for Native Indian rights on birth anniversary
Zitkala-Sa was one of America's most influential activists of all time (Google)

Google has honored Zitkala-Sa, one of America's most influential activists of all time, with a doodle. Zitkala-Sa, also known by her missionary-given and later married name Gertrude Simmons Bonnin, would have turned 145 on Monday (February 22). The search engine honored the Yankton Dakota writer, editor, translator, musician, educator, and political activist with the doodle that celebrated her life and achievements.

Britannica describes her as a "reformer who strove to expand opportunities for Native Americans and to safeguard their cultures." Zitkala-Sa was Gertrude's adopted name in her teens and after her graduation in 1987 from Earlham College. She went on to teach at the Carlisle Indian Industrial School where she published a few short stories and essays under the name in The Atlantic Monthly and Harper’s Monthly

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Who was Zitkala-Sa?

The name stands for 'Red Bird' in Lakota. Gertrude was born on February 22, 1876, on the Yankton Indian reserve, and her early education at the local school saw her being distanced from her tribe culturally. According to 9to5 Google, the students were forced to speak only in English, cut their hair, and follow the religious practices of the Quakers. The site also adds that this was the time American society was seeking to absorb the indigenous culture and keep women oppressed.

Zitkala-Sa took the fight to the opposition for her right as a Yankton Dakota woman. She also used her artistic abilities to showcase Indigenous culture to the world. She published a collection of oral stories on the Dakota Tribe in 1901 called The 'Old Indian Legends'. In 1913, she wrote the songs and the libretto of The Sun Dance, the first Indigenous American opera.

Zitkala-Sa also used her artistic abilities to showcase Indigenous culture to the world (Wikimedia Commons)

The doodle sees a monochrome image of Zitkala-Sa in the center, along with red birds against a ruled paper background. A violin can be seen followed by the GOOGLE written in a white and green pattern. Chris Pappan, the guest artist responsible for the doodle, explained the artwork. "All of the elements in the artwork relate to Zitkala-Ša’s life in some way. Her Lakota name translates as “Red Bird,” she wrote an opera relating to the Sun Dance, and she was an accomplished musician—all reflected within the Doodle. She also witnessed great upheaval and change throughout her life, as symbolized by the tipis. The lettering for “Google” is based on a beadwork design from one of her traditional dresses," Pappan said.

Zitkala-Sa also co-founded the National Council of American Indians in 1926 with the idea of lobbying for Native people's right to United States citizenship and other civil rights they had been denied. She served as the council's president until her death in 1938, aged 61.

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