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Throughout her life, Zitkala-Sa, a Lakota Sioux, worked to draw attention to the destruction of Indian culture, and to the abuses inherent in Indian-white relations. In this sense, her most famous work, "School Days of an Indian Girl" is itself an act of resistance to Euro-American culture. Published in Atlantic Monthly, a popular journal, "School Days" describes life at a Quaker boarding school where she, like many Native American youth at the time, was sent to fully assimilate to white culture. This was federal policy at the time, and Zitkala-Sa depicts it as fundamentally tragic and profoundly traumatic. She contrasts the rather dour demeanor and harsh discipline of the school's instructors with her own gentle upbringing prior to attending the school, and her education is depicted as an almost violent process, as embodied by the famous passage in which her long hair is cut off:
I cried aloud, shaking my head all the while until I felt the cold blades of the scissors against my neck, and heard them gnaw off one of my long braids. Then I lost my spirit...now I was only one of many little animals drive by a herder.
On the other hand, Zitkala-Sa is not completely passive in accepting white culture. She resists in a number of ways, notably breaking a turnip jar in rage at a teacher's callousness, and gains a measure of satisfaction in her victory over a neighboring white college in a debate contest. Overall, though, Zitkala-Sa's story is one of sadness and cultural destruction. She writes it for a white readership in order to arouse sympathy of Native Americans, in a manner similar to the antebellum slave narratives, which were used to fuel public opinion and sympathy for the abolition movement.
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