Old Indian Legends

Old Indian Legends is a collection of Sioux short stories not written but “retold” by Zitkala-Sa, also known as Gertrude Bonnin, an American Indian woman best known for her political activism and her writing. Her name means “Red Bird” in Lakota.

In her preface to Old Indian Legends, Zitkala-Sa gave two important purposes behind her work. First, she argued that these stories were an important part not simply of American Indian culture but of American culture as such: they “belong quite as much to the blue-eyed little patriot as to the black-haired aborigine.” Second, she hoped that these stories would be a spur to further study of American Indian culture, which would in turn remind Americans of “the great brotherhood of mankind” to which they all belong.

Zitkala-Sa, who lived from February 22, 1876, to January 26, 1938, published Old Indian Legends in 1901. Our copy of the work is a first edition. In addition to the stories provided by Zitkala-Sa, the book is also beautifully illustrated by the American Indian artist Angel de Cora.


Quick Look

Who:  Zitkala-Sa  

Why: Zitkala-Sa believed that these stories were an important part of American culture as such, and she hoped that these stories would encourage study of American Indian culture particularly.

When: 1901

Publishing information: Old Indian Legends, retold by Zitkala-Sa. First Edition. Boston: Ginn & Company, 1901.

Learning Activities

Pick one of the stories that Zitkala-Sa included in Old Indian Legends, read it with your friends or family, and then discuss it.