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

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In Zitkala-Sa's short story "Impressions of an Indian Childhood," the mother-daughter relationship is a symbiotic one, characterized by mutual respect and responsibility. Until the time she is enticed by the missionaries to leave her mother and go east, the daughter describers herself as "free as the wind that blew my...

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In Zitkala-Sa's short story "Impressions of an Indian Childhood," the mother-daughter relationship is a symbiotic one, characterized by mutual respect and responsibility. Until the time she is enticed by the missionaries to leave her mother and go east, the daughter describers herself as "free as the wind that blew my hair, and no less spirited than a bounding deer. These were my mother's pride,—my wild freedom and overflowing spirits." In fact the appreciative recognition of the other's unique nature is one of the factors strengthening their unequivocal mother-daughter bond.

Even the language Zitkala-Sa uses when she describes the rhythm of the daughter's early days, spent by her mother's side, is filled with images that convey security and trust between them:

On a bright, clear day, she pulled out the wooden pegs that pinned the skirt of our wigwam to the ground, and rolled the canvas part way up on its frame of slender poles. Then the cool morning breezes swept freely through our dwelling, now and then wafting the perfume of sweet grasses from newly burnt prairie.

The day is bright, the breezes are free, and the grasses offer sweet perfume as the Sioux daughter dutifully learns from her mother the careful and intricate beading traditions of her people. The mother, for her part, communicates through her patience a belief in her daughter's abilities. This belief is internalized and voiced when the daughter explains, "in the choice of (bead) colors she left me to my own taste."

Finally, the daughter's responsibility to her mother is both touching and absolute. When playing with her friends, she delights in "impersonating" her mother, right down to her voice inflections; she loves her aunt, partly "for the cheerfulness she caused" her mother; and she characterizes this time by "few memories of winter days, at this period of my life, though many of the summer."

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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 walked to the river to get water each day, she "stopped...play 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 someday.

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 disrupts the cyclical way of life that Native Americans lived. The Western influence causes her to lose the traditional aspects of the mother-daughter relationship.

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