In Zitakala-Sa’s, American Indian Stories, she recounts the transition from her childhood on a Native American Reservation to a Christian boarding school. Zitakala-Sa remembers being initially excited about her move to the East, however, she soon realizes that the missionaries that ran the boarding school were slowly stripping away her identity as a Native American girl. The traumatic experience that brought Zitakala-Sa to this realization was when her long dark hair was chopped off. Zitakala-Sa felt captured and hopeless with the loss of her hair because her mother had taught her that captured warriors had their hair shingled by the enemy (90). To the Indian girls, losing their hair was so much more than losing their beauty, it was losing their culture and their sense of home.
In the Keywords essay about identity, Karen Coats asks the question: is identity innate? Identity is especially important in children’s literature because customs, traditions, and superstitions are learned through childhood experiences (110). The missionaries strategically targeted Native American children with the goal of eliminating their cultural practices. Native American languages and cultural traditions were slowly stripped away because the children were unable to learn them and pass them on to the next generation. Missionaries stole so much history and took away Native American children’s identity in the process. According to the keywords essay on identity, postmodern critics believe that identity is provisional and fluid, and is more dependent on external forces than inner personalities. Identity is performed, which leads to an appearance of sameness that is a result of repetition of the same performances overtime (109-110). After reading American Indian Stories, I would have to agree with this interpretation of identity. Because the Native American children were no longer surrounded by their culture, they were no longer able to identify with it, and it was slowly taken away from them. The children were not able to express the identity of being a Native American after years of being away from home because it became foreign to them, and they slowly conformed to a predominantly white society.
In 2016, identity is also becoming less individual as everyone is able to express and share their values with millions of people through the internet. People are able to post their values for everyone to see, which causes many people, especially young girls, to conform. Girls are highly susceptible to conforming because of insecurities that the media puts upon them. As a girl it is much easier to go with the status quo than be an individual, and now social media is only heightening this phenomena because it is unavoidable.