JANUARY 26, 1938


Born on the Yankton Reserve, South Dakota, February 22, 1876, her name meant “Red Bird.” Gertrude studied piano & violin and attended Earlham College (1895) & New England Conservatory of Music (1897). She taught music at Carlisle Indian Industrial School (1899-1901), but was let go for criticizing its assimilationist focus in Harper’s Monthly. In 1901, she published Old Indian Legends. She & her husband worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) in Utah (1902-17). Between 1910 and 1913, Bonnin wrote libretto & songs for The Sun Dance Opera–the 1st American Indian opera. In 1911, joining the Society of American Indians (SAI), her anti-assimilation views caused the BIA to fire her husband. In 1918, she edited SAI’s magazine. Gertrude promoted Indian suffrage & was active in the General Federation of Women’s Clubs, creating its Indian Welfare Committee. In 1924, she co-authored Oklahoma’s Poor Rich Indians. Bonnin died in Washington, DC. and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

Source:  "Zitkala-Ša (Red Bird / Gertrude Simmons Bonnin), U.S. National Park Service.  Retrieved 3/2/2021, https://www.nps.gov/people/zitkala-sa.htm
Photo:  Gertrude Käsebier, 1898.  Public Domain.

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