Skip to main content

Monday’s Google Doodle, the image found on the Google home search page, illustrates the Yankton Sioux writer, teacher, musician, and suffragist Zitkala-Ša “Red Bird” with her violin on a ledger.

The Google Doodle celebrates her 145th birthday.

Kaw, Osage, and Cheyenne River artist Chris Pappan created the illustration as requested by Google. Pappan has received such accolades as the Discovery Fellowship from the Southwestern Association of Indian Artists and the Heard Museum’s Best of Class for paintings and drawings, and the Best of Division for Pappan’s drawings at the 52nd Annual Indian Market.

The story of Zitkala-Ša “Red Bird”

Zitkala-Ša was born and raised on the Yankton Reservation in South Dakota.

At 8 years old, Zitkala-Ša went to White’s Indian Manual Labor Institute. As was the case with boarding schools in the United States, as a Native girl, she was forced to cut her hair and was punished if she ever spoke her Native language.

Though the boarding school was a sad experience for her, she received a western education through assimilation, including the musical art of the violin. When she returned home, she wrote “Old Indian Legends” in 1901, and in 1913 she wrote the first Native opera, “The Sun Dance.”

The Google Doodle page dedicated to today’s Doodle highlighted the contributions of Zitkala-Ša in the following passage:

Scroll to Continue

Read More

In addition to her creative achievements, Zitkala-Ša was a lifelong spokesperson for Indigenous and women’s rights. As an activist, she co-founded and served as first president of the National Council of American Indians in 1926. Zitkala-Ša’s work was instrumental in the passage of historic legislation, such as the Indian Citizenship Act of 1924—granting citizenship to Indigenous peoples born in the United States—as well as the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934.

Happy Birthday, Zitkala-Ša, and thank you for your efforts to protect and celebrate Indigenous culture for generations to come.

Chris Pappan is the winner of the prestigious Discovery Fellowship from the Southwestern Association of Indian Artists (SWAIA) in 2011 and the Heard Museum’s Best of Class (Paintings, Drawings, etc) and Best of Division (drawing) at the 52nd Annual Indian Market 2010. Chris’s work is in the collections of the Spencer Museum of Art, Kansas, Mitchell Museum of the American Indian, Illinois, The Schingoethe Center for Native Studies in Aurora Illinois, and private collections around the world. He is currently working on a major project for The Field Museum in Chicago.

Chris Pappan, his wife Debra Yepa-Pappan, and their daughter JiHae visited Bristol for the opening of their exhibition FIRST PEOPLE, SECOND CITY co-curated by Dr. Max Carocci from the British Museum and Joanne Prince, Director of Rainmaker Gallery.

ICT logo bridge

Vincent Schilling, Akwesasne Mohawk, is associate editor of Indian Country Today who enjoys creating media, technology, computers, comics and movies. He is a film critic and writes the #NativeNerd column. Twitter @VinceSchilling. Email: he is also the opinions’ editor,

Like this story? Support our work with a $5 or $10 contribution today. Contribute to the nonprofit Indian Country Today.