In the preface to one of her collections of Sioux legends and traditional stories, Zitkala-Sa explained that her goal was to "transplant the native spirit of these tales--root and all--into the English language, since America in the last few centuries has acquired a second tongue." Ask students to consider the implications of "transplanting" stories from one language and culture into another. Why might Zitkala-Sa have chosen this plant metaphor to characterize her translation project? You might also ask them to analyze the role of language and translation in Zitkala-Sa's autobiographical writings. What kinds of problems does she encounter when she is forced to communicate in English at the missionary school? At one point, she describes the school authorities' English speech as creating a "bedlam within which I was securely tied." What kinds of emotional frustrations does her inability to understand or speak English create? How does her eventual success speaking English at a college oratorical contest resonate with these issues?
Have your students examine the images of the Indian boarding schools featured in the archive. They could also read Louise Erdrich's poem "Indian Boarding School: The Runaways." Ask your students to write poems or prose reflections on what the boarding school experience would have been like for the different people who lived and worked there (teachers, janitors, students, the people who lived in the town nearby).
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