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Zitkala Ša: Hero of Ethics

Grade Level Grades 6-9


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Epic Ethics Heroes of Ethics Mini-Lesson

2 Minute Doodle Video + Critical Thinking Questions

Have you ever heard the melodies of the Sun Dance Opera? In 1913, the first American Indian Opera was written by Zitkála-Šá, or as her name translates from Lakota to English, Red Bird. Zitkála-Šá was a Yankton Dakota educator, writer, musician, and political activist in the early twentieth century. She was among the population of indigenous American Indians that were removed from their tribes and ancestral homes to be schooled in the infamous Indian Schools famous for their cultural erasure. Zitkála-Šá eventually became a teacher of the Carlisle Indian Industrial School where she saw troubling inequities with the school’s purpose and curriculum. When she spoke out for change, her employment was terminated. She continued to write on the topic of indigenous rights and was co-founder and president of the National Council of American Indians, which helped lobby Congress to pass the Indian Citizen Act in 1924. Tirelessly, Zitkála-Šá worked to preserve American Indian cultural heritage through work with the Society of American Indians, political activism, and a broad range of academic and editorial writings. She also collected and compiled indigenous folk stories in an effort to preserve and continue cultural traditions.

How would it feel to be removed from your home and forced to live apart from your family and learn a different language?

Why do you think Zitkála-Šá's parents agreed to send her to an Indian School?

When have you had to speak out against something unjust in your community?

What do you think caused Zitkála-Šá to work tirelessly for her community? What was important to her?

What do you love about your heritage and community? What is worth fighting to preserve?

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Zitkala Ša: Hero of Ethics
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