Content Category

Literary Criticism

Abstract/Description

The writings of Gertrude Bonnin have been used by many to argue against the assimilation of the Yankton Sioux and the boarding schools that were implemented in the nineteenth century. Macbain uses her early writings to describe the Anglo-Saxons as a contagion and argue that their actions caused nothing but death for the Yankton Sioux. However, these arguments fail to take into account her stances that she developed later in life. After a childhood as a Yankton Sioux and an education from a Christian school she developed a stance that, rather than directly oppose the Anglo-Saxon culture, fought to find a middle ground that could take the two cultures and have them coexist. By looking at her writings “The Great Spirit” and “A Dream of Her Grandfather” I will look at the complex argument of cultural pluralism and how Zitkala-Sa promoted her idea through her use of situational irony, cultural symbolism, and juxtaposition of descriptions. Through this analysis I hope to find evidence of how her stance on cultural pluralism was effective and how her ideas could be implemented today in a culture of racial tensions.

Origin of Submission

as part of a class

Faculty Involvement

Dr. Mike Taylor

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Zitkala-Sa and the Assimilation of Cultures

The writings of Gertrude Bonnin have been used by many to argue against the assimilation of the Yankton Sioux and the boarding schools that were implemented in the nineteenth century. Macbain uses her early writings to describe the Anglo-Saxons as a contagion and argue that their actions caused nothing but death for the Yankton Sioux. However, these arguments fail to take into account her stances that she developed later in life. After a childhood as a Yankton Sioux and an education from a Christian school she developed a stance that, rather than directly oppose the Anglo-Saxon culture, fought to find a middle ground that could take the two cultures and have them coexist. By looking at her writings “The Great Spirit” and “A Dream of Her Grandfather” I will look at the complex argument of cultural pluralism and how Zitkala-Sa promoted her idea through her use of situational irony, cultural symbolism, and juxtaposition of descriptions. Through this analysis I hope to find evidence of how her stance on cultural pluralism was effective and how her ideas could be implemented today in a culture of racial tensions.