Zitkala-Sa, excerpts from “The School Days of an Indian Girl,” 1900

“and she had overheard the paleface woman talk about cutting our long, heavy, hair.  Our mothers had taught us that only unskilled warriors who were captured had their hair shingled by the enemy”(1)

A young Native American girl in an industrial school accounts the act of the white woman cutting off her braids,  after struggling and fighting to protect them because they are a sign in her Native American culture of honor.  The white women uses her position of power to oppress and destroy the Native Americans culture and last remaining thing to her heritage.  Just like the female slave owners from Glymph’s piece and from the slave owners during wartime, who used their intersectionality as a way to gain power in one aspect of their lives, these white women destroy the last remaining thing this girl has and forces her to assimilate to a culture that will never truly accept her because of the color of her skin.

Native Americans were oppressed from the beginning of settlement in America because they did things completely different than the European settlers. For instance, many of the tribes were matriarchal in nature, an idea completely foreign to the settlers.  They spoke negatively of it “describing it as heathen, savaged, and unnatural because of gender roles and sexual practices that seemed a mirror opposite of their own culture” ( 2).  Thus one that must be eliminated, during the time of the Westward Expansion in the late 19th century “Indian women were encouraged to submit to a role of legal and social dependence on their husbands and to abandon traditional roles, along with tribal activities and rituals” (3).  Just like how this young girl is describing the white woman stripping her of her heritage, the white culture believed it to be the superior and right culture, and so they oppressed everyone who did not follow it, and forced their customs onto others as a means of control.


  1. Zitkala-Sa, excerpts from “The School Days of an Indian Girl,” 1900

  2. Berkin, Carol , ed. “Women in Colonial and Revolutionary America.” Clio in the Classroom . Ed. Margaret Crocco and Barbara Winslow. N.p.: n.p., n.d. 17. Print.
  3. Berkin, Carol , ed. “Women in Ninteeth Century America.” Clio in the Classroom . Ed. Margaret Crocco and Barbara Winslow. N.p.: n.p., n.d. 41. Print.
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2 thoughts on “Zitkala-Sa, excerpts from “The School Days of an Indian Girl,” 1900

  1. Pingback: “Arm in Arm: Gender, Eugenics, and Virginia’s Racial Integrity Acts of the 1920s” | The Intersectionality of Oppression

  2. Pingback: The Intersectionality of Oppression Introduction | The Intersectionality of Oppression

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