Red Bird

View item information

Portrait of Red Bird Yankton.

Probably better known by her Yankton name, Zitkala-sa, or her American name, Gertrude Simmons-Bonnin, Red Bird (1876-1938) appears every inch a “traditional” Sioux woman in her heavily beaded hide dress, hairpipe necklace, and long braided hair. The child of a Yankton woman and a Euro-American man (who, like Seth Eastman, abandoned his Native family shortly after his child’s birth,) Zitkala-sa grew up on the Yankton Reservation in South Dakota. In 1884, missionaries took her and several other Yankton children to the White’s Manual Labor Institute boarding school in Wabash, Indiana. She later attended Earlham College. Through these experiences, she managed to both keep her home culture alive and use her Western education to fight for Native land rights and citizenship, becoming the author of several books about Lakota culture, an opera based on the Sun Dance, and the speaker for the National Council of American Indians.