(The Washington Redskins claim that the name of their franchise derives
from a 1930's honoring of the team's head coach William "Lone Star" Dietz,
who, they state, was Native American. In the previous four parts of this
series it is learned that William Henry "Lone Star" Dietz was not Oglala
Lakota, that he did not attend Chiocco Indian School, and that the romantic
story of his birth and childhood in South Dakota was fabricated.)
In 1914 Charles Yellow Boy inquired again (as shown earlier). But Moses
Friedman, superintendent of Carlisle Indian School, received his letter
right at the onset of the Congressional Investigation. This was not a good
time for Friedman, who was in the hot seat for incompetence and fraud.
His reply to Yellow Boy was brief. James One Star died in Cuba. The family
should write to the War Department for the details. But there is absolutely
no evidence for this conclusion - War Department records do not support it.
Perhaps, the superintendent wanted to protect the family from the humility
of a dishonorable discharge. Or he simply did not take the time to research
In the end no one seemed to care about Sally or her missing brother or the
many lies Dietz told. They only tried to determine whether or not Dietz was
"part Indian" - and it seems any "part" would do. As one newspaper
reported, the testimony Dietz's white mother gave, "reads like a novel."
She testified that "Billy" had been substituted about a week or two after
she gave birth to a stillborn child on Aug. 17, 1884, and her own mother,
Leanna Barry, agreed. Barry claimed that the elder Dietz convinced his wife
to take in a baby he had fathered with a woman from "the Sioux and Chippewa
tribe," she guessed. "You see Rice Lake was wild then and everything was
woods and brush, and full of Indians."
Other testimony, however, did not support the women's story. A neighbor
swore she saw Mrs. Dietz the day before and the day after she gave birth to
a child who grew up to be Willie Dietz. And a Rice Lake newspaper from
August 1884 reported that the elder Dietz was passing out cigars to his
friends at his home the day after the alleged stillbirth, contradicting
Barry's testimony that no one came around for a couple of weeks to see the
new baby. The elder Dietz would have been pretty cruel to pass out cigars
the day after his wife lost a baby, not to mention passing them out days
before he had allegedly convinced her to take in his illegitimate child.
Whether or not he was this unfeeling, the prosecution tried to prove that
if Dietz had Indian ancestry, it had come from his white mother, one way or
Dietz stated the story his mother and grandmother told was true. He
testified that he did not find out about his "real" mother until
overhearing an argument between his parents when he was 16. Racialist
confusion likely led to a hung jury. What did it mean in 1919 to be an
Indian? For most, it was a racial classification with distinct biological
attributes that were universally applicable to all in the race. Culture?
What did that have to do with anything? Still, in January of the next year
a judge convicted Dietz and sent him to jail for 30 days. But despite the
conviction, Dietz continued to perpetuate the lie, claiming he had been
"persecuted." He remained Lone Star Dietz, Oglala son of Julia One Star, on
his social security form in the 1940s, in magazine and newspaper
interviews, in confidences between friends.
In 1964 Dietz died a poor man in Reading, Penn., where he had for several
years coached the Albright College Football team. And to honor this
"football hero and teacher" with "high moral character," Albright's
"Varsity Club" paid most of his medical expenses before he died. They also
purchased a plot and headstone for him in Reading on which they had
inscribed the name "Lone Star."
Although James One Star has been forgotten, his removal has not been
without effect, as evidenced by the current court battle. It's strange that
no one seems to remember how residents of Pine Ridge had denied Lone Star's
claim to James One Star's identity years ago. Today the only criticism
against the claim has been whether or not Lone Star had lived long enough
with the Oglala to claim their heritage. As Suzan Shown Harjo has written:
"Dietz had a Sioux mother, but was raised by his German father's family,
far to the east of Sioux country. His first contact with Indians was in his
late teens in the federal boarding school in Carlisle, Penn."
Well, he surely did not live with the Oglala (a division of the western
Sioux) for any length of time, and he was 22 when he entered Carlisle. But
there were eastern Sioux, particularly "mixed-blood" Dakota, and there were
Ojibway from Lac Court Oreilles Reservation, and Ho-chunk who inhabited
areas in and around Rice Lake, Wis., when Dietz was a boy. His father even
had unearthed Indian graves on their property when "Billy" was a toddler.
As his grandmother kept reiterating, "Oh, everything was full of Indians
... There were several tribes there." Even if Dietz did not have American
Indian ancestry, his "first contact" occurred well before he reached
Carlisle. As his grandmother explained, "Willie was so Indian in the mind,"
he sometimes "run along" with "Indian women." Perhaps, his father did too,
But what about James One Star? Even some people at Pine Ridge, it seems,
have been misled by a name, forgetting that their real brother never
returned home. Have they also been blinded by Lone Star's legacy? Or did
they forget their history and James One Star's story, because it was all
too painful to remember?
It's time to reclaim the Native boy, though he did not make the transition
easily from the plains of South Dakota to a boarding school in Pennsylvania
that sought to "kill the Indian in him." It's time to reclaim the young
Lakota warrior, though he did not find honor or display valor in his
Anglo-America's military. It's time to reclaim the lost Oglala man, who
died an unceremonious, and, perhaps, an unlamented death. It's time to
reclaim James One Star and bring him home, if not in body, then in spirit -
and if not in spirit, then in name. It's not surprising that the Washington
Redskins are inspired by a misnomer, a fake and a fraud. What is surprising
is that James One Star has been forgotten, and we have not seemed to
notice. Though the Indian in him was saved to become a Lone Star, the man
that he became simply vanished.
Linda Waggoner has taught for 12 years in the American Multicultural
Studies and Philosophy departments at Sonoma State University in
California. She is currently finishing a biography on Winnebago artist and
educator Angel DeCora Dietz (1869 - 1919) and has written "Neither White
Men Nor Indians", published in 2002.