Zitkala Sa Family Relationships Zitkala Sa life as Sioux child during the late 1800’s was very difficult. Raised on the Yankton Sioux Reservation in South Dakota during the “transitional” period in Native American history by her mother, her white father left before she was born, Zitkala Sa relationship becomes strained when palefaces arrive on the reservation. Zitkala Sa talks about her life on the reservation with her mother and how their relationship becomes unraveled in her autobiographical story, Impressions of an Indian Childhood.
Growing up, Zitkala Sa learned her tribe’s culture through experience and through imitating her mother and other older women in tribe. She was taught to always respect her elders, be a generous host to guests within her home, and to be concerned with the welfare of all members of her tribe, particularly the ill or unfortunate. We can see these lessons at work, when old grandfather enters her wigwam while her mother is away and she immediately takes on the role of hostess.
She offers him a small piece of unleavened bread and attempts to make him coffee.
Attempts being the key word, as she was trying to make coffee using old coffee grounds found on the bottom of the pot and cold ashes. Old grandfather does not embarrass her, or let on that something is wrong with the coffee. Missionaries soon arrived on the Sioux reservation in 1884. Their mission was to recruit students for a Quaker boarding school for Indians in Wabash, Indiana. This is where the troubles start to become apparent with their mother daughter relationship. Zitkala Sa mother has always had a hatred towards the paleface.
She has seen what they do to families that were forced to migrate to new lands and the many battles that lead to the migration. So when Zitkala Sa comes home from playing with friends and tells her mother about all the wonderful things the palefaces have told them. Zitkala Sa’s mother becomes very concerned. She tries desperately to make Zitkala Sa see that the missionaries are telling nothing more than lies and falsehoods. But Zitkala Sa is already under their spell. She has heard the tales of orchards full of great trees that grow red apples.
They speak of how you are able to reach up and pick as many red apples that you can eat. The missionaries also entice the children with talk of riding the iron horse, or train as we now know it. Zitkala Sa’s mother pleads with her daughter not to go. She tries to guilt her daughter to stay, but Zitkala Sa mind is already made up. On the day Zitkala Sa is to leave with the palefaces. Her mother once again pleads with her daughter to stay with her. It is Zitkala Sa’s aunt that helps change her mother’s decision.
The aunt explains how the world, everything and everyone within it will be turned to the white man’s ways. It would be in Zitkala Sa’s best interest to go with the palefaces and learn their culture. She explains that this is the palefaces way of repaying their people for stolen lands they took from them. Zitkala Sa’s mother, with a heavy heart, finally gives in and allows her daughter to go with the missionaries. Even though Zitkala Sa is excited to go East and start this new adventure, she soon becomes overwhelmed with emotions. Soon we were being drawn rapidly away by the white man’s horses.
When I saw the lonely figure of my mother vanish in the distance, a sense of regret settled heavily upon me. I felt suddenly weak, as if I might fall limp to the ground. I was in the hands of strangers whom my mother did not fully trust. I no longer felt free to be myself, or to voice my own feelings. The tears trickled down my cheeks, and I buried my face in the folds of my blanket. Now the first step, parting me from my mother, was taken, and all my belated tears availed nothing. (Zitkala Sa, page 1845) It is here that you really feel and understand what Zitkala Sa is going thru.
You feel her pain, her sadness, and her regrets. You are reminded about the first time you went to a friend’s house for your first sleep over, only to have your parents come pick you up in the middle of the night because you were homesick. You are reminded about the first time your parents try to talk you out of this great idea you have, but you knew best, only to realize that they really do know what they are talking about. It is not until you are older, or until you read a story like this, that you start to reflect on your own relationships with your family.
You see the heartache that you have caused each other over the years and how you have all grown from those experiences. And how no matter what you, or they have done in the past, you are still family. For you have shared in more joys and celebrations that out number the heartaches. Works Cited Zytkala Sa. “Impressions of an Indian Childhood. ” The Norton Anthology American Literature W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. New York: 2007. 1837-1845 Kilcup, K. Native American Women’s Writing: c. 1800-1924, an anthology 200
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