In Zitkala-sa's short story "Impressions of an Indian Childhood," what is the mother-daughter relationship?

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wshoe eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Zitkala-Sa explains the significant bond between Native American mothers and daughters in "Impressions of an Indian Childhood." It is important to note that the first stories in Zitkala-Sa's collection, American Indian Stories, are autobiographical.  Zitkala-Sa was a member of the Yankton Sioux tribe.  As recounted in "Impressions of an Indian Childhood," Zitkala-Sa leaves the tribe at age eight to attend a missionary school for formal education.  The Sioux believed that knowing one's mother was necessary for knowing your personal relationship with the earth.  Zitkala-sa's admiration and respect for her mother are apparent when she describes how, when her mother would walk to the river to get water each day, she " to run along with her" (7).  She also explains how she and her playmates "delighted in impersonating our own mothers" in the games that they played (11).  Zitkala-Sa's mother is open about her hatred for white men.  One example of this is when she makes a comment about the white man stealing the river from them some day. When her daughter shows an interest in leaving the tribe to attend the white school, her mother begs Zitkala-Sa not to go.  Zitkala-Sa does not want to leave her mother, but she is too interested in the stories she has heard about life beyond her tribe.  Even though she is only eight years old, Zitkala-Sa's mother allows her to make her own decision. This is an important aspect of the mother-daughter relationship.  Zitkala-Sa's mother has taught her not to be an intrusion on others.  By allowing Zitkala-Sa to make her own decision, her mother is not intruding on her daughter's life.  Zitkala-Sa is described as wild and free, and her mother fears she will lose this if she goes to the school.  Part of Native American tradition is the passing down of knowledge from mother to daughter, and by leaving Zitkala-Sa is severing this tie both to her mother and to her heritage.  Zitkala-Sa's decision to leave does disrupt the cyclical way of life that Native Americans lived.  The Western influence does cause her to lose the traditional aspects of the mother-daughter relationship.