(The Washington Redskins claim that the name of their franchise derives
from a 1930s honoring of the team's head coach William "Lone Star" Dietz,
who, they state, was "Native American." In the previous two parts of this
series it was learned that William Henry "Lone Star" Dietz was not Oglala
Lakota, that he did not attend Chilocco Indian School, and that the
romantic story of his birth and childhood in South Dakota was fabricated.)
What is verifiable is that a 23-year-old Dietz enrolled at Pennsylvania's
Carlisle Indian Industrial School in the fall of 1907, just a year after
his future Winnebago wife, Angel DeCora, was hired to pioneer the school's
first Native American art program. Carlisle school forms that Dietz filled
out state that he was born on August 17, 1884 to Julia One Star, a deceased
"half-blood" Oglala Sioux and William Dietz, a "white" man. A one-fourth
quantum of "Indian blood" was sufficient to meet Carlisle school entry
requirements, but why and how Dietz ended up there is a mystery. Not only
was he over age at the time of his enrollment, but he had already attended
college, and Carlisle, along with providing industrial training, could only
offer about a tenth-grade academic education. One draw may have been Pop
Warner's football team, which was becoming quite popular. Another
attraction may have been romance. Dietz had met DeCora at the same place he
had met One Star - the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair, where they both
contributed artwork to the fair's Indian Industrial School exhibit.
Less than three months after Dietz enrolled at Carlisle, he was sent on a
three-month "outing" to take art classes at the Academy of Industrial
Design in Philadelphia. On the eve of 1908, he and DeCora secretly married.
By April he was "discharged" from the school to become his wife's assistant
in the art department, a position he maintained until he resigned in 1915.
His student status, however, was miraculously restored when he became a
starter for the football team during the 1911 and 1912 seasons.
Glenn "Pop" Warner coached Carlisle's team for all but three seasons from
1899 through 1914, appointing Dietz to be his assistant during his last two
seasons. But in those two seasons the school was under Congressional
investigation - with some of the focus on the football team's financial
accounting. When Warner decided it was time to leave Carlisle, Dietz did
too, and accepted a coaching job at the University of Washington in Pullman
in 1915. In January of 1916 his underdog team, the Cougars, played and beat
Brown University at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., and thus, Dietz was
on his way to becoming, as Ewers claims, "one of the country's most
successful coaches in the period between the two World Wars."
Still, the primary contribution Dietz made while at Carlisle was his
artwork. He was a prolific illustrator, a skilled craftsman, and a talented
designer. The quality of his work particularly helped bring national
attention to the publications produced by Carlisle's Indian press.
According to Ewers: "Lone Star's designs featured human beings in action,
as had the traditional narratives earlier generations of Sioux artists had
painted on buffalo robes. But his works revealed a skill in rendering
three-dimensional forms on a two dimensional surface and an understanding
of perspective that was lacking in the flat works of 19th century Sioux
Besides his handsome features and his charismatic personality, his artistic
talent drew "Billie" Dietz to Angel DeCora; but it was football, it seems,
that would finally pull them apart. She did not follow him out west, and he
divorced her for abandonment on Nov. 30, 1918 (just two months before she
died). DeCora dreamed of leaving the Indian Service to collaborate on
artistic projects with her husband, but he continued to participate in
Carlisle's football program year after year, until he got the coaching job
The Dietzes were one of the few married couples teaching at Carlisle, and
appeared to have been very popular role models for the Indian students.
Initially they were a good match, because, besides their shared interest in
art, Dietz liked to deal with the public, while his wife was more modest
and retiring - though she was a sought-after public spokesperson for the
preservation of "Native Indian art" (as she called it) until her death on
Feb. 6, 1919.
In 1912 a feature article, titled, "How Art Misrepresents the Indian,"
appeared in the well-circulated Literary Digest. "The story of Lone Star
and his wife, Angel DeCora" was said to be "full of romantic interest," and
the pair of "educated Indians" was portrayed as fashionably primitive,
highly attuned to the natural world, and inherently artistic as befitted
their "race." Although the article centered on Dietz's claim that only one
artist was capable of authentically representing "the Indian" - Frederick
Remington - the most interesting segment of the piece (and the one quoted
in "Five Strings to His Bow") was about Dietz himself.
Forty years ago a young German, a civil engineer, was a member of a party
of surveyors laying out the line of a railroad over the plains. The party
was attacked by Red Cloud and its camp was besieged. Day by day the supply
of provisions grew less. Finally, the young German determined on a course
so bold that none of his companions dared accompany him.
Alone, without arms, and with a few days' rations, the engineer set out
toward the Indian camp. He was captured and taken before the chief. While
his captors introduced him with mutterings he stepped forward with
outstretched hand toward the chief.
His plan worked. The chief met his captive with the trust that the civil
engineer displayed. A lodge was assigned to the white man and he took an
Indian woman as his wife. Although United States troops put an end to the
Indian uprising and rescued the other engineers of the party, the young
German remained with Chief Red Cloud's tribe and his Indian wife gave birth
to two children. The second child, a boy, was named Wicarhpi Isnala, or
After he had grown wealthy as a trader and agent between the Indians and
the whites the engineer left the tribe and returned to his home in the
East. Here he found an old sweetheart, whom he married. After five years he
returned to the Indians and took away his son Lone Star from the tribe,
who, at eight years old, entered a school in the East, overcame the
handicaps of strange language and was graduated from a high school at
The irony in this story is not only did "Art Misrepresent the Indian," but
Lone Star also took quite a bit of artistic license in misrepresenting
himself. Always a showman, Dietz loved being in the spotlight and was prone
to embellish his accomplishments. Still, he was a multi-talented
phenomenon. He raised prize Russian Wolfhounds, sang for the glee club,
loved acting, appeared in silent movies, wrote plays, and had a successful
coaching career until 1942, when he retired to an unprofitable career in
commercial art. Ewers deemed Dietz "the most able Plains Indian illustrator
of his generation."
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.