Zitkala-Ša, Gertrude Bonnin, native, indigenous, dispossession, allotment, land, starvation, native american, american, sentimental


This paper proposes that the motif of starvation in Zitkala-Ša’s 1921 short story, “The Widespread Enigma Concerning Blue-Star Woman,” is in fact a metaphor for the dispossession of Native American lands and its disastrous effects on Native American livelihood and culture. Though much scholarship has been done on sentimental rhetoric in Zitkala-Ša’s fiction, critics have not yet explored its connection to this the most immediate Zitkala-Ša’s concerns. This essay first unpacks letters from Zitkala-Ša’s personal archives to demonstrate her individual interest in dispossession, and then examines “Blue-Star Woman’s” ever-present language of hunger through this lens of land loss. In doing so, it demonstrates how Zitkala-Ša’s work in “Blue-Star Woman” validates Native American cultural beliefs about the religious and cultural value of land, which continually clash with Western ideas of justice. It also shows how “Blue-Star Woman” directly critiques corrupt federal allotment policy and demonstrates land’s essentialness in maintaining communal solidarity. There is no question that land disputes continue to dominate contemporary Native and non-Native relations, and Zitkala-Ša’s sentimental framework of landlessness and starvation in “Blue-Star Woman” provides a useful lens through which to approach Native land disputes even today.

Issue and Volume

Vol. 11, no. 1



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