Today’s Google Doodle Honors Zitkala-Ša, Indigenous Artist and Activist

Pencil drawing of Zitkála-Šá with violin, tipis, the word Google, and two red birds flying,
Portrait of Zitkala-Sa, wearing a white puff-sleeve dress, looking over her shoulder and holding her violin. The background is floral wallpaper.

Today’s Google Doodle celebrates the 145th birthday Zitkala-Ša, a writer, musician, teacher, composer, suffragist, and member of the Yankton Sioux Tribe of South Dakota (Ihanktonwan Dakota Oyate or “People of the End Village”), who studied violin at New England Conservatory from 1897 – 1899.

As co-founder and president of the National Council of American Indians, she made enormous strides through her political activism in securing citizenship and voting rights for Indigenous Americans. She also made significant cultural contributions as a writer and as co-composer of The Sun Dance Opera, the first American Indian opera.

Artist Chris Pappan, of Osage, Kaw, Cheyenne River Sioux, and European heritage, shared these remarks on his inspiration for the piece:

My Grandmother was Lakota, so it was an honor to be able to help bring more recognition to another strong Lakota woman. [...]

All of the elements in the artwork relate to Zitkala-Ša's life in some way. Her Lakota name translates as “Red Bird,” she wrote an opera relating to the Sun Dance, and she was an accomplished musician—all reflected within the Doodle.

As Observer reports:

Later on in her life, Zitkala-Ša was trained in violin at the New England Conservatory of Music, and in 1900, she performed at the White House for President William McKinley.

Zitkala-Ša's achievements in activism were just as monumental as her artistic ones: she co-founded and led as the first president of the National Council of American Indians in 1926, and her efforts were instrumental to the eventual passage of the Indian Citizenship Act of 1924. 

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