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American Indian Stories

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Essay title: American Indian Stories

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 Christianity.

Also, the book as a whole reflects her empowerment, but also speaks eloquently in a conquering culture's language of what it is to have no power over your destiny or selfhood. Her integration of several competing selves led her to write this, in "The Great Spirit": "The racial lines, which once were bitterly real, now serve nothing more than marking out a living mosaic of human beings."

In "The Great Spirit" she demonstrates her rhetorical savvy in embedding palatably her critique of oppressive hierarchy. She evokes this theme again in "Sun Dance Opera," which she composed later in life. Here and elsewhere, she illustrates that the question of cultural and spiritual identity goes deeper than notions of civil rights.

Zitkala-Sa's insistence on the dignity of Indian religion and exposure of Christian hypocrisy manifests itself in her activist life, as well. 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

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