Zitkala-Sa was born a full-blooded Yankton Sioux Indian. Raised in a tipi on the Missouri River until she was 12 when she began to attend a Quaker missionary school. She received a scholarship at the Boston Conservatory traveling to Paris as a violin soloist. Returning home she eventually became a clerk at the Bureau of Indian Affairs at Standing Rock Indian Reservation where she met & married her husband.
A passionate novelist, intent on preserving her people's heritage, she wrote without the aid of an editor or interpreter. "Red Bird" was a formidable activist on behalf of education, health care, resource conservation & cultural preservation for her people. She sought to build bridges between the two cultures & using language as a tool, her efforts led to President Hoover's appointment of two Indian Rights representatives leading to the passage of The Indian Citizenship Bill in 1924. She worked tirelessly, encouraging her people to use their right of suffrage to help elect Roosevelt.
As a lobbyist, she garnished support for a government investigation into tribal treatment & abuse. Her life's work centered around her struggle with cultural dislocation & injustice at the hands of both church & state.