The Figure of the Child in
Indigenous Literature and Activism
This book-length project builds on my Children's Literature article “Spirits from another Realm, Activists in their Own Right: The Figure of the Yankton/Romantic Child in Zitkala-Ša’s Work" where I examine the Yankton writer Zitkala-Ša’s strategic engagement with the Euro-American romantic childhood ideal propagated by popular writers and reformers at the turn of the century. I draw on Yankton attitudes toward children and the role of children in Zitkala-Ša’s activism in order to consider how Zitkala-Ša at once deploys and revises the romantic childhood ideal in her later political writings as well as in her 1900 Atlantic Monthly stories in order to gain support from white audiences, challenge government policies, and shape intertribal activism. The larger project stretches back to the eighteenth century and forward to the present day, and it includes attention to Indigenous writers and activists in Hawaii and Canada as well as in the continental United States. Throughout the project, as in the Children's Literature piece, I consider how writers and activists draw on the values of particular Indigenous communities while also using, adapting, and critiquing dominant perspectives as they deploy the figure of the child to resist and/or represent resistance to boarding/residential schools (and their ongoing legacy), the practice of adopting Indigenous children out of their communities, sexual violence, land encroachment, poverty, environmental degradation, and a range of other issues.