I don't know about you, but I learn a lot from Google Doodles. Anytime it's a person that I don't recognize, I click it and find out!

Today, I was pleasantly surprised that Zitkala-Sa was from South Dakota. Once, I started reading about her I couldn't believe I had never heard of her before. She sounds like she was a pretty amazing woman.

Zitkala-Sa was today's Google Doodle because it is her 145th birthday. (February 22, 2021)

Hot 104.7 - KKLS-FM logo
Get our free mobile app

She was born in 1876 on the Yankton Indian Reservation in the then Dakota Territory. Her name is Lakota for Red Bird. Her mother was Dakota and her father was of German/American descent. He left when Zitkala-Sa was very young.

She was also known by her missionary given name/married name of Gertrude Simmons Bonnin.

She lived for eight years on the reservation and then she was 'recruited' by Quaker Missionaries to attend the White's Indiana Manual Labor Institute, where she learned to read, write, and speak English. While there she also learned to play the violin.

She would later write about her experiences. She was grateful to learn to read and write and loved the violin, however, she was forced to cut her traditionally long hair and pray as a Quaker. She felt her heritage and culture was being taken from her.

This is a theme she would write about numerous times throughout her life.

She wrote about her native culture in order to preserve their traditions, equal rights for Native Americans and women, politics, and assimilation.

She had works published in Atlantic Monthly and Harper's Monthly. One of her most influential pieces of political writing, "Oklahoma's Poor Rich Indians" was published in 1923 by the Indian Rights Association. Huge accomplishments at the time considering she was a young Native American woman.

She also helped write an opera! The Sun Dance Opera premiered in 1913. The opera adapted the Native American oral musical tradition to a written one.

As if that wasn't enough she founded the National Council for American Indians.

Zitkala-Sa wore many hats! She was a writer, editor, translator, musician, educator, and political activist.

And somehow among all of these accomplishments, she still found the time to have a relationship! She was married in 1902 to Raymond Talefase Bonnin, he was one-quarter Yankton Dakota ancestry. They had one child together, a son, Alfred Ohiya Bonnin.

According to Wikipedia, "Zitkála-Šá died on January 26, 1938, in Washington, D.C., at the age of sixty-one. She is buried as Gertrude Simmons Bonnin in Arlington National Cemetery.[39] In the late 20th century, the University of Nebraska reissued many of her writings on Native American culture...In 1997 she was designated a Women's History Month Honoree by the National Women's History Project...Zitkála-Šá's legacy lives on as one of the most influential Native American activists of the 20th century.[44] She left an influential theory of Indian resistance and a crucial model for reform. Through her activism, Zitkála-Šá was able to make crucial changes to education, health care, and legal standing for Native American people and the preservation of Indian culture."

She had so many accomplishments and such a full life that it is hard to do her justice in a single blog post, but her legacy definitely lives on. I'm grateful that Google honored her and in turn, I now know this remarkable woman existed. Here's to lifelong learning.


13 Famous Iowans


Leaders Park Sioux Falls





More From Hot 104.7 - KKLS-FM