Essay on American Indian Stories

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In her book American Indian Stories, Zitkala-Sa's central role as both an activist and writer surfaces, which uniquely combines autobiography and fiction and represents an attempt to merge cultural critique with aesthetic form, especially surrounding such fundamental matters as religion. In the tradition of sentimental, autobiographical fiction, this work addresses keen issues for American Indians' dilemmas with assimilation. In Parts IV and V of "School Days," for example, she vividly describes a little girl's nightmares of paleface devils and delineates her bitterness when her classmate died with an open Bible on her bed. In this groundbreaking scene, she inverts the allegation of Indian religion as superstition by labeling…show more content…
While she and her husband denounced the Peyote religion due to their first-hand observation of peyote's destructive--often deadly--effects, they asserted the superiority of Indian spirituality over the disregard for nature, disrespect of other cultures, and depredation of people which accompanied alleged Christian practices such as stripping children from their language, culture, religion, family, and environment, the blatant injustice and trauma of which the reader poignantly feels in her fiction during the hair-cutting scene and in the mother's desperate cry to her departed warrior brothers.      This collection of stories and the autobiographical account of her school days at White's Manual Institute in Wabash, Indiana, and later at Earlham College provide insight into the struggle of Indian peoples in the early twentieth century to protect their heritage while developing a modern Indian identity.      Zitkala-Sa makes the reader feel how shocking and horrifying our comfortable culture was to children who grew up in a different culture, beginning with the cutting of her hair. There are the "loud, metallic voice" of the bell and the "annoying clatter of shoes on bare floors." There is always a "clash of harsh noises" but mostly there is the "murmuring of an
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