Zitkala-Ša (1876–1938), also known by the missionary-given name Gertrude Simmons Bonnin, was a Sioux (Yankton Dakota) writer, editor, musician, teacher and political activist. She wrote several works chronicling her youthful struggles with identity and pulls between the majority culture and her Native American heritage. Her later books in English were among the first works to bring traditional Native American stories to a widespread white readership.
She founded the National Council of American Indians in 1926 to lobby for rights to American citizenship and civil rights. She served as its president until her death in 1938.
In addition to photographing the Sioux performers sent by Buffalo Bill Cody to her studio, Käsebier was able to arrange a portrait session with Zitkala Sa, “Red Bird,” also known as Gertrude Simmons (1876-1938), a Yankton Sioux woman of Native American and white mixed ancestry. She was born on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, like many of the Sioux traveling with the Wild West show. She was educated at reservation schools, the Carlisle Indian School, Earlham College in Indiana, and the Boston Conservatory of Music. Zitkala Sa became an accomplished author, musician, composer, and dedicated worker for the reform of United States Indian policies. Käsebier photographed Zitkala Sa in tribal dress and western clothing, clearly identifying the two worlds in which this woman lived and worked. In many of the images, Zitkala Sa holds her violin or a book, further indicating her interests. Käsebier experimented with changing backdrops, including a Victorian floral print, and photographic printing. She used the painterly gum-bichromate process for several of these images, adding increased texture and softer tones to the photographs.