American Indian Stories

Produced by Juliet Sutherland, Brett Koonce and the Online Distributed
Proofreading Team

AMERICAN INDIAN STORIES

BY

ZITKALA-SA (Gertrude Bonnin)

Dakota Sioux Indian

Lecturer; Author of “Old Indian Legends,” “Americanize The First

American,” and other stories; Member of the Woman’s National Foundation,

League of American Pen-Women, and the Washington Salon

There is no great; there is no small; in the mind that causeth all

1921

CONTENTS

Impressions of an Indian Childhood

The School Days of an Indian Girl

An Indian Teacher Among Indians

The Great Spirit

The Soft-Hearted Sioux

The Trial Path

A Warrior’s Daughter

A Dream of Her Grandfather

The Widespread Enigma of Blue-Star Woman

America’s Indian Problem

IMPRESSIONS OF AN INDIAN CHILDHOOD

I.
MY MOTHER.

A wigwam of weather-stained canvas stood at the base of some irregularly
ascending hills. A footpath wound its way gently down the sloping land
till it reached the broad river bottom; creeping through the long swamp
grasses that bent over it on either side, it came out on the edge of the
Missouri.

Here, morning, noon, and evening, my mother came to draw water from the
muddy stream for our household use. Always, when my mother started for
the river, I stopped my play to run along with her. She was only of
medium height. Often she was sad and silent, at which times her full
arched lips were compressed into hard and bitter lines, and shadows fell
under her black eyes. Then I clung to her hand and begged to know what
made the tears fall.

“Hush; my little daughter must never talk about my tears”; and smiling
through them, she patted my head and said, “Now let me see how fast you
can run today.” Whereupon I tore away at my highest possible speed, with
my long black hair blowing in the breeze.

I was a wild little girl of seven. Loosely clad in a slip of brown
buckskin, and light-footed with a pair of soft moccasins on my feet, I
was as free as the wind that blew my hair, and no less spirited than a
bounding deer. These were my mother’s pride,—my wild freedom and
overflowing spirits. She taught me no fear save that of intruding myself
upon others.

Having gone many paces ahead I stopped, panting for breath, and laughing
with glee as my mother watched my every movement. I was not wholly
conscious of myself, but was more keenly alive to the fire within. It
was as if I were the activity, and my hands and feet were only
experiments for my spirit to work upon.

Returning from the river, I tugged beside my mother, with my hand upon
the bucket I believed I was carrying. One time, on such a return, I
remember a bit of conversation we had. My grown-up cousin, Warca-Ziwin
(Sunflower), who was then seventeen, always went to the river alone for
water for her mother. Their wigwam was not far from ours; and I saw her
daily going to and from the river. I admired my cousin greatly. So I
said: “Mother, when I am tall as my cousin Warca-Ziwin, you shall not
have to come for water. I will do it for you.”

With a strange tremor in her voice which I could not understand, she
answered, “If the paleface does not take away from us the river we
drink.”

“Mother, who is this bad paleface?” I asked.

“My little daughter, he is a sham,—a sickly sham! The bronzed Dakota is
the only real man.”

I looked up into my mother’s face while she spoke; and seeing her bite
her lips, I knew she was unhappy. This aroused revenge in my small soul.
Stamping my foot on the earth, I cried aloud, “I hate the paleface that
makes my mother cry!”

Setting the pail of water on the ground, my mother stooped, and
stretching her left hand out on the level with my eyes, she placed her
other arm about me; she pointed to the hill where my uncle and my only
sister lay buried.

“There is what the paleface has done! Since then your father too has

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