Archive for the ‘Washington Redskins’ Category

Origin of Redskins Team Name

March 22, 2011

Every so often, either in a newspaper article or on a football forum, questions about the origin of the Redskins team name emerge. This time the question was raised on a forum. Although it is repetitive to answer the same question periodically, it is probably necessary. A person interested in clarifying the issue asked me for a quote. It follows:

“Lone Star Dietz was hired to be head coach of the Boston Braves after the 1932 season. Sometime after his hiring, the team moved to Fenway Park necessitating a name change. I have seen Boston Braves stationery with Dietz’s name on it. That shows that he was hired before the name change. George Preston Marshall’s granddaughter wrote an op-ed to the “Washington Post” some years ago in which she stated that Marshall renamed the team in honor of Dietz (and, possibly, of the four Haskell players Dietz brought with him). Dietz coached the Boston Redskins in 1933 and 1934. This is all spelled out in my biography of Dietz.”

Some on the forum thought that the name change was influenced by the name of the baseball team that played in the Redskins new home of Fenway Park, the Red Sox. It may have. After all, Marshall could have named his team the Indians or something else in honor of Dietz. The Red in Red Sox may even have guided him toward Redskins without him realizing it.

Some sources state that the team name change occurred before Dietz’s hiring but I have evidence that contradicts that: Braves letterhead with Dietz’s name on it. It is highly unlikely that Marshall would have authorized the printing of letterhead with the wrong team name on it or with a name that he intended to change in the near future. That would have been wasting money, something that George Preston Marshall didn’t make a habit of doing. The masthead of that letterhead follows:

Wisconsin’s Carlisle Indian School Immortals is Out Now

September 2, 2010

The second volume of the Native American Sports Heroes Series is now out and available to readers. Wisconsin’s Carlisle Indian School Immortals was released yesterday and is expected to be of interest to libraries and readers interested in Native American history, sports and government Indian boarding schools. This book follows the following players from their youths on the reservation, through their times at Carlisle to their later lives:

  • Chauncey Archiquette
  • Wilson Charles
  • Wallace Denny
  • Lone Star Dietz
  • Louis Island
  • James Johnson
  • Frank Lone Star
  • Jonas Metoxen
  • Thomas St. Germain
  • Caleb Sickles
  • George Vedernack
  • Gus Welch
  • Hugh Wheelock
  • Joel Wheelock
  • Martin Wheelock
  • Charles Williams
  • William Winneshiek

Readers will learn who became doctors, lawyers and Indian chiefs. Some became musicians and led all-Indian bands. One was invited to join Richard Byrd’s Second Antarctic Expedition. Another was instrumental in establishing the Rose Bowl. Readers will also learn more about the naming of the Washington, DC NFL team and about the all-Indian NFL team. Several served in WWI even though non-citizen Indians were not drafted. Most lived long, productive lives but some didn’t. Some married girls they met at Carlisle, others married white girls and still others married girls from the reservation. One even married a congressman’s daughter.

The reading level is such that anyone from seventh grade through senior citizen can appreciate it and It is my hope that school children will read it to gain a better understanding of their history.

More Misinformation from a Journalist

May 17, 2010

While wrangling grandchildren in Bethesda, MD this weekend, my wife took the impressionable young minds into a bookstore. 12-year-old Joey, a bookie if there ever was one, picked up a copy of The Redskins Encyclopedia by Michael Richman. When he showed it to my wife, she immediately noticed several errors in a paragraph that deals with Lone Star Dietz. The offending paragraph can be found on page 3:

The hands-on Marshall fired Wray, too, and replaced him with William “Lone Star” Dietz, a part-blood Native American. Dietz recruited six football stars from the Haskell Indian School in Kansas, where he had once played with the great Jim Thorpe and later coached for four years. The recruits included “Chief” Larry Johnson, Louis “Rabbit” Weller, and John Orien Crow. The charismatic coach told his players to pose with war paint, feathers, and full headdresses before the 1933 home opener against the Giants.

Where to start? Let’s do them in the order they appear:

1. Dietz recruited six football stars from Haskell

I’ve read this elsewhere but can only verify that he brought four former Haskell students with him—the three Richman listed plus David Ward.

2. …from Haskell Indian School in Kansas…

They came from Haskell Institute (today’s Haskell Indian Nations University) in Lawrence, KS not Haskell Indian School.

3. …where he [Dietz] once played

There is no record of Dietz ever enrolling at Haskell Institute or playing on their football team. He did coach there from 1929 to 1932.

4. …where he [Dietz] once played with the great Jim Thorpe

Lone Star Dietz played with Jim Thorpe at Carlisle not Haskell.

Jim Thorpe attended Haskell Institute before attending Carlisle but did not play on the school’s football team.

What is discouraging is that the author is a veteran journalist and should know that he should have checked his facts. It would have taken him little time to find these errors had he just consulted my biography of Lone Star Dietz and Bob Wheeler’s biography of Jim Thorpe. It is no surprise that yet another journalist has made less than accurate statements about Jim Thorpe and Carlisle Indian School, but it is unfortunate because most readers accept that the author has his facts right and don’t check for themselves.

Oklahoma, Land of Red People

June 25, 2009

I just came across an explanation of the origin of the name “Oklahoma:”

Oklahoma is a word that was made up by the Native American missionary Allen Wright. He combined two Choctaw words, “ukla” meaning person and “humá” meaning red to form the word that first appears in a 1866 Choctaw treaty. Oklahoma means “red person.”

Doing a little research, I then learned that Allen Wright was 7/8 Choctaw, originally from Mississippi, and was a Presbyterian minister who had been educated at Union Theological Seminary. After fighting for the Confederacy during the Civil War, he was made principal chief in 1866 while away in Washington, where as one of the five delegates of the Choctaw Nation, he was negotiating a treaty to restore amicable relations with the United States.

During those negotiations, he referred to the Indian country as Oklahoma, meaning Territory of Red People. Oklahoma Territory wasn’t established by the treaty but the name stuck. Later, there would be an Oklahoma Territory and, later yet, the State of Oklahoma.

I also learned that decades earlier a nephew of the great Choctaw chief Pushmataha was named Oklahoma, but that was a happy coincidence. What we know as Oklahoma was not named after that man but was named by Rev. Allen Wright to mean land of red people. This is another example of Indians referring to themselves as red men long ago.

I verified the accuracy of this with Smithsonian Linguist Emeritus Ives Goddard and Bill Welge, Director of the Archives Division of the Oklahoma Historical Society. More information about this topic can be found in History and Civics of Oklahoma by L. J. Abbott, LL.B., M. A. and in “Chief Allen Wright” by John Bartlett Meserve in Chronicles of Oklahoma, Vol. 19, No. 4, December 1941. Both documents are available on-line. They can be found at


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Chief Allen Wright

Redskins Trademark Safe for Now

May 21, 2009

Last Friday, a three-judge panel of the U. S. Court of Appeals in Washington upheld the D. C. Circuit Court’s decision that the plaintiffs had waited too long in filing a suit against the Redskins’ trademark which was originally registered in 1967. This time around (law suits were first filed against the Redskins in 1992), based on the much shorter delay (seven years and nine months) since Mateo Romero’s 18th birthday. Apparently minors are not allowed to file such suits. The other six plaintiffs are much older and waited far longer to file. The judge also ruled that the attack on the team’s cheerleaders, the Redskinettes, was also filed too late. However, these lawsuits are far from over. Suzan Shown Harjo, President of the Morning Star Institute and one of the plaintiffs, told reporters that a group of younger plaintiffs are ready to challenge the trademarks. Don’t expect this fight to end anytime soon. A franchise that isn’t so successful would probably relocate to greener pastures long before this thing is resolved.

I follow this issue because owner George Preston Marshall named the Redskins in honor of Lone Star Dietz, his new head coach in 1933. Dietz has been at the epicenter of this controversy for years. Dietz’s heritage has been an issue since his draft evasion trial in 1919. *** Begin unabashed plug *** My 2006 book, Keep A-goin’: the life of Lone Star Dietz discusses the issue of his birth at great length. *** End unabashed plug ***

Galleys Received

May 27, 2008

The advance reading copies (called ARCs in the trade) arrived for my new book and are being sent out to reviewers. This is a big moment in a writer’s life: seeing thousands of hours of hard work turned into something tangible. In the old days (pre-computer), ARCs were called galleys, bound galleys or galley proofs. Authors, editors and publishers go over these babies with a fine-tooth comb looking for errors, typos or things that have changed since writing was complete. It is an impossible task because, after all this scrutiny, some typos escape and find their way into the final book. But we try.

Another important use of ARCs is to see how the photos and artwork come out in print. Overall they came out very well, better than expected. But a cartoon about the Oorang Indians from a 1922 Baltimore newspaper is too dim. The challenge now is to figure out how to darken it without losing the detail.

This weekend I received some additional information and a correction regarding Louis Island from a family member who happened to see a previous blog. That was fortuitous because I want the book to be as accurate as possible. This blog is already proving to be of some value. That encourages me to continue with it.

Having these ARCs provides local booksellers the opportunity to provide their customers something extra. People can look at an ARC and pre-order the book if they choose. The bonus, besides being sure of getting a copy of the book as soon as it comes out, is to receive an inscription of his or her choice signed by the author. On-line booksellers also take pre-orders but personalized inscriptions are impractical.



Lone Star Dietz selected for Hall of Fame

April 1, 2008

At long last an oversight or, as many view it, a snubbing is being corrected. Lone Star Dietz should have been inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame decades ago but hasn’t been. Some view this as just another example of Indians being abused by white men. Dietz has been inducted into a number of halls of fame including the prestigious Helms Athletic Foundation Hall of Fame back in the 1970s. His role in establishing the New Year’s Day football tradition, most notably the Rose Bowl, is reason enough to induct him. But that’s not all. His won-loss record qualifies him for induction and that’s saying something. Lone Star Dietz did not nestle into a successful program and ride that horse for decades; he undertook a number of reconstruction efforts and turned programs around. On the few occasions he couldn’t turn a perpetual loser into a winner, he got the student body excited.

So, why hasn’t he been inducted? Until a few years ago the Hall had his record wrong and didn’t consider him qualified. Now that the record has been corrected he is eligible and his name has been on the ballot. A couple of years ago he came close but while the ballots were being counted, the Honors Committee (now that’s a dubious name) decided they wanted to induct Joe Paterno and Bobby Bowden. There was one hitch: Paterno and Bowden’s names weren’t on the ballot because, as active coaches, they weren’t eligible. That problem was easily dealt with. All they had to do was to change the rules in midstream. Presto! Paterno and Bowden were eligible and the men whose names were actually on the ballot were forgotten. Sorry, Lone Star.

But this year he’s getting a fair shake and is belatedly being inducted. Perhaps this will lift the Lone Star Curse from Washington State.

April Fool!