“To have Zitkala-Ša’s social manifestos and legal opinions gathered in one place is an incredible gift to readers of indigenous legal and cultural history in the United States.” — Margaret Noodin, from the foreword
An essential collection of writings and speeches by a preeminent American Indian activist
Zitkala-Ša, also known as Gertrude Simmons Bonnin, was born on the Yankton Sioux reservation in 1876 and went on to become one of the most influential American Indian writer/activists of the twentieth century. “Help Indians Help Themselves”: The Later Writings of Gertrude Simmons Bonnin (Zitkala-Ša) is a critical collection of primary documents written by Bonnin who was principally known for the memoir of her boarding school experience. This volume expands the published work of Zitkala-Ša, adding insight to a life of writing and political activism on behalf of American Indians in the early twentieth century.
Edited by P. Jane Hafen, “Help Indians Help Themselves” documents Bonnin’s passion for justice in Indian America and outlines the broad scope of her life’s work. In the American Indian Magazine, the publication of the Society of American Indians, and through her work for the National Council of American Indians, Bonnin developed her emphasis, as Hafen writes, on “resistance, tribal nationalism, land rights and call for civil rights.”
“Help Indians Help Themselves” also brings to light Bonnin’s letters, speeches, and congressional testimony, which coincide with important developments of the relationship between American Indians and the U.S. federal government. Legislation such as the Citizenship Act of 1924, the Meriam Report of 1928, and the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 is reflected through the work collected in “Help Indians Help Themselves”. In these writings, in newsletters, and in voluminous correspondence—most of which have never before been published—Bonnin advocates tirelessly for “the Indian Cause.”
P. Jane Hafen (Taos Pueblo) is a Professor Emerita of English at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. She serves as an advisory editor of Great Plains Quarterly, is a board member of the Charles Redd Center for Western Studies, and is an Associate Fellow at the Center for Great Plains Studies. She is a Frances C. Allen Fellow, D’Arcy McNickle Center for the History of the American Indian, The Newberry Library, and was a founding Clan Mother of the Native American Literature Symposium. She edited Dreams and Thunder: Stories, Poems and The Sun Dance Opera by Zitkala-Ša, co-edited The Great Plains Reader, and is author of Reading Louise Erdrich’s Love Medicine.