The College Days of an Indian Girl: Zitkala-Sa

issues of New Territory magazine

In this essay for The New Territory magazine, I write about a moment I tried to gain my bearings in a new place by connecting to the author and activist, Zitkála-Šá:

“I was a Midwest transplant, born and raised on the East Coast. Before I left home, friends joked about flatland and cornfields and voiced concerns about my entering what they perceived to be a region of overwhelming whiteness. Culture shock, however, was nothing new to me. As the first in my immigrant family to attend college, I knew what it meant to feel unmoored, to walk into a room where no one resembled you.

My conference visit to Earlham College was an attempt to soften that dislocation. Books have always been my second home, so sitting in the Runyan Center listening to literary presentations, I was already more comfortable. A bonus? Zitkála-Šá went here in the 1890s. Having read her stories about being the only American Indian among over 400 college students, I felt a kinship….”

Read the rest of this essay, part of The New Territory magazine’s Literary Landscapes series, here:

I provide more details on Zitkála-Šá’s speech, “Side by Side,” in this thread:
One of the highlights: In a part of the speech detailing all lost to the advent of “civilization” (ie, broken treaties, “the White Man’s bullet” etc), Zitkala-Sa writes, “He loved his native land. Do you wonder still that in his breast he should brood revenge, when ruthlessly driven from the temples where he worshipped?”

Contact me if you wish to see the entire transcript of the speech itself.

Photograph of Zitkala-Sa looking into the distance by Gertrude Kasebier

Special thanks to the hardworking librarian-archivists at Earlham College for indulging my obsessiveness and answering my questions. Thanks too to Rebekah Trollinger for taking the photo in the New Territory magazine article, and to Andy Oler, editor extraordinaire.

To read more of my other writing, go to my Research page.