Gertrude Bonnin on Sexual Morality

  • Tadeusz Lewandowski Institute of Literatures, University of Opole, Poland; Department of English and American Studies, University of Ostrava, Czech Republic https://orcid.org/0000-0002-9067-2403
Keywords: Gertrude Bonnin, Zitkála-Šá, Native American, Sarah Deer, sexual morality, settler-colonialism

Abstract

This paper examines attitudes to sexual morality held by the Yankton Dakota author and activist Gertrude Bonnin (1876–1938), better known by her penname Zitkála-Šá (Red Bird in Lakota). Bonnin’s concerns encompass several themes: the victimization of Indian women, disintegration of Native courtship rituals, sexual threats posed by peyote use, and the predatory nature of Euro-American men. This critique as a whole — in which a ‘white invasion,’ in her words, leads to a corruption of Native sexuality — sometimes produces inconsistencies, particularly regarding Bonnin’s statements on the alleged sexual perils of peyote. Her investigations into the Oklahoma guardianship scandals of the 1920s, however, strongly buttress recent research by Sarah Deer (2015), whose study, The Beginning and End of Rape: Confronting Sexual Violence in Native America, highlights the tragic aspects of Native-white sexual relations under United States settler-colonialism.

Author Biography

Tadeusz Lewandowski, Institute of Literatures, University of Opole, Poland; Department of English and American Studies, University of Ostrava, Czech Republic

Tadeusz Lewandowski, PhD, is an American professor who teaches in the Institute of Literatures at the University of Opole, Poland, and in the Department of English and American Studies at the University of Ostrava, Czech Republic. His books include Red Bird, Red Power: The Life and Legacy of Zitkala-Ša (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2016) and Ojibwe, Activist, Priest: The Life of Father Philip Bergin Gordon, Tibishkogijik (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2019). He has also edited Zitkala-Ša: Letters, Speeches, and Unpublished Writings, 1898–1929 (Boston, Lieden: Brill, 2018).

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Published
2021-06-01
How to Cite
Lewandowski, T. (2021). Gertrude Bonnin on Sexual Morality. English Studies at NBU, 7(1), 5-20. https://doi.org/10.33919/esnbu.21.1.1
Section
Articles