Archive for the ‘Angel DeCora’ Category

The Little Buffalo Robe

February 2, 2012

The last few days have been spent cleaning up the scanned PDF of The Little Buffalo Robe, a task that proved to be much more time consuming and tedious than expected.  I am reprinting this book and Yellow Star because they were illustrated by Lone Star Dietz and his wife, Angel DeCora, while they were on the faculty of Carlisle Indian School.  Because these books have been out of print for the better part of a century, it is likely that few people have ever heard of them and, thus, have not seen the artwork contained in them. Yellow Star contains four full-page black and white reproductions of what were likely color paintings done jointly by the couple and signed by both of them.  In 1911, when this book was first printed, Dietz preferred to be called William Lone Star and signed the artwork in this book with that moniker. The Little Buffalo Robe includes four full-page black and white illustrations as does Yellow Star, but only the frontispiece was done jointly; the other three were Angel DeCora’s work alone. In addition, the book contains numerous, and I mean a lot, of smaller pen-and-ink drawings of things related to the story line.  Most of them were done by Dietz, a few by Angel, and others were not signed.  One of the joys of reading this book is admiring the frequent illustrations.

I found The Little Buffalo Robe to be very interesting because it says much about the culture of Plains Indians at the time.  The protagonist, a young Omaha girl, tells the tale of her odyssey after becoming separated from her tribe and parents.  Her adventures as she encounters Assiniboine, Dakota, Pawnee and Winnebago adults are told from a Omaha child’s perspective and reveal much about the customs, culture and beliefs of her people. The author, Ruth Everett Beck, was a white woman who grew up Lyons, Nebraska along the Missouri River in the time and place where this book was set.  She likely learned the Omaha customs as a girl as she was reputed to be an authority on some aspects of Indian life.

President Visits Places with Names Important to Carlisle

August 17, 2011

Yesterday, a little news snippet caught my ear: President Obama visited Decorah, Iowa where he stayed at the Hotel Winneshiek. While there is nothing about that that is earth shaking or will be of great historic significance, it was of interest to me. It wasn’t what the president was doing that got my attention; it was the names of the places he was that resonated with me.

Decorah (often spelled De Cora or Decora) is not just a geographical name but is also the name of an important Nebraska Winnebago family, many of whom were hereditary chiefs. The granddaughter of one of these chiefs, Little De Cora, was Angel DeCora who, after being educated at Smith College, rose to prominence in the late 19th century as the leading female Indian artist of her day and was well known in the leading eastern art circles. In 1906, she accepted the position as director of the Native Art Department at Carlisle Indian School. In late 1907, she married William Henry Lone Star Dietz who, at 25 was her student, but was still 13 years her junior. The two generated much positive press nationally for Carlisle.

Winneshiek is the name of an important Wisconsin Winnebago, or Ho Chunk, family which has provided the tribe with many chiefs. The son of one of them was William Winneshiek who was noted more for his musical ability than his athletic prowess at Carlisle and went on to a career in music, even having his own all-Indian band. He did, however, find time to play football in the early NFL for the Oorang Indians. His biography can be found in Wisconsin’s Carlisle Indian School Immortals.

His brush with history finished, Obama left Hotel Winneshiek in Decorah for breakfast in Guttenberg.

Hampton University Forges New Field — Again

April 11, 2011

When most people think of Hampton University, they consider it to be a historically black educational institution, which it is, of course. However, It is more than that. In 1878, Lt. Richard Henry Pratt convinced 17 of the younger of his former prisoners at Fort Marion, Florida to enroll in an educational program he established at what was then called Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute. Pratt soon disagreed with Hampton’s policy of cloistering students from the community at large and proceeded to found Carlisle Indian Industrial School. Hampton did not stop educating Indians; it continued enrolling them for decades. Their records are a source of information for people researching Carlisle students as sometimes some family members attended Hampton while others attended Carlisle. Very few appear to have attended both schools. One person, and probably more, Angel deCora, the famous Winnebago artist, was first educated at Hampton and later taught at Carlisle.

Hampton University recently became the home of something else of interest to people living in the Mid-Atlantic Region. The Hampton University Proton Therapy Institute, the eighth such installation in the U. S. and the largest in the world, completed treatment of it first group of patients in November. These men were treated for Prostate Cancer but Proton Therapy is not limited to that application as it is also used to treat a variety of other types of cancer. Their web site states that Hampton Roads leads the country in Prostate Cancer deaths. That fact might be one of the reasons the $220M facility was located where it is. That the Department of Defense ponied up $7.9M toward its costs may be because so many military personnel are stationed in the Hampton Roads area or retire there. Large numbers of Viet Nam veterans are afflicted with Prostate and other cancers due to exposure to Agent Orange. Apparently, Agent Orange affected more than just the people who handled it in their daily work or those who trudged through the terrain that had been sprayed with the defoliant.

Proton Therapy appears to be the Prostate Cancer treatment modality with the fewest side effects of the available treatment options. Next time back to football, I think.

What happened to Dietz’s Russian Wolfhound?

September 9, 2008


Orloff Kennel logo from Lone Star Dietz's letterheard, 1915

Orloff Kennel logo from Lone Star Dietz

Over the weekend I was contacted by Lizzie with concerning Lone Star Dietz’s champion Borzoi (then called Russian Wolfhound). Those of you who have read my biography of Dietz know that he and his first wife, Angel DeCora, raised and showed prize-winning Russian Wolfhounds and won several categories at Westminster Kennel Club’s 1915 dog show. Their Khotni even won best of breed. It appears that is a gallery that sells fine art and history. Apparently Lizzie is handling the estate of Joseph B. Thomas’s son and the estate includes a number of items from Thomas’s father. So? The elder Thomas operated Valley Farms Kennels, a leading breeder of Russian Wolfhounds. A 1907 article in The Rider and Driver and Outdoor Sport told of him traveling 15,000 miles to a remote part of Russia just to acquire a brace of Russian Wolfhounds. He was very serious about these dogs.

Angel and Lone Star bought Khotni from Thomas around 1910 when they started Orloff Kennels behind their apartment at Carlisle Indian School on Carlisle Barracks. One can only imagine the complaints when their pack howled late at night. Lizzie wanted some information about Dietz and Thomas:

Can you tell me what kind of relationship Lone Star had with the Borzoi Breeder Joseph B. Thomas? Did Lone Star end up selling his beloved Khotni back to Thomas?

We believe we have the Westminster trophy won by Khotni (directly acquired from Joseph’s son’s estate) and would like to know as much about it’s history as we can!

Unfortunately, I couldn’t answer her questions as I know nothing of the relationship between Dietz and Thomas and don’t know what happened to Khotni. The last information I have on him is that, after Lone Star took the head coaching position at Washington State, Angel had Khotni with her and was trying to sell him for $1,000. Perhaps a reader knows more.


Best Team-Russian Wolfhounds-Presented by Mrs. Joseph B. Thomas

Best Team-Russian Wolfhounds-Presented by Mrs. Joseph B. Thomas


June 20, 2008

A December 1914 newspaper article bemoaned the fact that 12 million soldiers involved in the Great War in Europe adorned their uniforms or marched behind flags with birds depicted in spread-eagle positions. Angel DeCora was interviewed for the article because she had studied the thunderbird at great length. By delving into Indian legends, she learned that the thunderbird or equivalent has been a mark of distinction and authority for many thousands years. She learned the Winnebago version of the thunderbird story and believed it to be as old as the legend of the last mammoth.

According to legend the spirits that dominated land, water and air were in a balanced state for ages with each spirit roughly equal to the others. Clans associated themselves with patron spirits for purposes of recognition and occupation. The thunderbird, apparently an air spirit, was observed in deadly combat with a water spirit by an exhausted warrior of the thunderbird clan as he lay next to a precipice looking down on the still waters below. When the spirits tired they each asked the warrior for help. The warrior, the only human ever to see the spirits, assisted the thunderbird and the water spirit sank, never to be seen again.

To Indians, the thunderbird represents authority, dignity, arbitration and, most important of all, peace. Many believed the emblem of a bird with wide-spread wings was misappropriated by Europeans from ancient America perverting a symbol of arbitration and peace to war and devastation.

Carlisle Indian School and the Society of American Indians both adopted the thunderbird as their emblem. The thunderbird designed by Angel DeCora for the school’s use is at the bottom of this message. The September 4, 1914 issue of The Carlisle Arrow announced that the Alumni Department would adorn various items with the thunderbird. The April 30 blog includes the Alumni Department’s masthead featuring a thunderbird that I mistakenly thought looked more like a bat.

I have a soft spot for Thunderbirds having owned them for over 40 years. I bought a rust-bucket ’56 in 1965, nursed it along for a decade and bought a solid ’57 in 1976 and have kept it all this time. I finally broke down and had it painted. So, it will be out on the road in all its glory soon.

Thunderbird by Angel DeCora