Angel De Cora

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Angel De Cora
Angel De Cora
Angel De Cora

(1871-05-03)May 3, 1871
DiedFebruary 6, 1919(1919-02-06) (aged 47)
Known forPainting & Illustration

Angel De Cora Dietz (1871–1919) was a Winnebago painter, illustrator, Native American rights advocate, and teacher at Carlisle Indian School. She was the best known Native American artist before World War I.[1]


Angel De Cora Dietz or Hinook-Mahiwi-Kalinaka (Fleecy Cloud Floating in Place), was born at the Winnebago Agency in Dakota County (now Thurston), Nebraska, on May 3, the daughter of David Tall Decora, a Ho-Chunk (Winnebago) of French ancestry and a son of the Little Decorah, a hereditary chief. Angel was born into the Thunderbird clan; her English and Ho-Chunk names were chosen by a relative who was asked to name her, opened the Bible, and the word "angel" caught her eye. Her mother was a member of the influential LaMere family.[2][3] She was kidnapped at a young age from the Agency, and sent to school in Hampton, Virginia. "A strange white man appeared on the reservation and asked her, through an interpreter, if she would like to ride on a steam car; with six other children, she decided to try it, and when the ride was ended she found herself in Hampton. '[It was] three years later when I returned to my mother' says Angel De Cora. 'she told me that for months she wept and mourned for me. My father and the old chief and his wife had died, and with them the old Indian life was gone.'"[3]

As granddaughter to the chief of the Winnebago tribe, De Cora existed in a position of influence since "among most plains people, power and cultural knowledge were accumulated by and dispensed through females"[4] (35). Although De Cora's mother was French in origin, De Cora would be expected to follow in her grandmothers footsteps in passing along cultural practices. "During the summers we lived on the Reservation, my mother cultivating her garden and my father playing the chief's son. During the winter we used to follow the chase away off the Reservation, along rivers and forests. My father provided not only for his family then, but his father's also. We were always moving camp. As a child, my life was ideal. In all my childhood I never received a cross word from any one, but nevertheless, my training was incessant. About as early as I can remember, I was lulled to sleep night after night by my father's or grandparent's recital of laws and customs that had regulated the daily life of my grandsires for generations and generations, and in the morning I was awakened by the same counselling. Under the influence of such precepts and customs, I acquired the general bearing of a well-counselled Indian child, rather reserved, respectful, and mild in manner."[5]


Taken from her family and placed into the Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute, Hinook/de Cora was to accomplish the U.S. federal government's vision of "educating Indian girls in the hope that women trained as good housewives would help their mates assimilate" into U.S. mainstream culture (272).[6] De Cora studied at a local preparatory school in Hampton, Virginia, working for a local family.[3] Afterwards De Cora was educated at Burnham Classical School for Girls. She then studied art at Smith College. She studied specifically illustration at Drexel Institute (now Drexel University) and also studied at the Cowles Art School in Boston.[7]


De Cora was married to William Henry "Lone Star" Dietz (Wicarhpi Isnala), who claimed Dakota and German descent but his true identity remains highly controversial.[8] Dietz also taught at the Carlisle Indian School. He and De Cora met at the St. Louis World's Fair in 1904.[3] In addition to his art, Dietz was a notable football player, and in 1915 he became head coach of Washington State; he later was the first head coach of the Washington Redskins.


Towards the end of her career, De Cora and her husband taught art at the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.[3] In her tonalist art work, Angel De Cora painted firelight to illuminate warm memories of her childhood life on the Nebraska plains after she settled far from home in the east".[9] Her oil Painting, "for an Indian school exhibit, for the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York"[10] demonstrates the technical prowess and emotional depth of her art.

De Cora created the title-page designs for Natalie Curtis's The Indians' Book, a collection of Native American songs, stories, and artwork first published in 1907.[11]

Unfortunately not much of De Cora's original paintings remain, but she illustrated her own stories published in Harper's Magazine and illustrated books. The 1911 Yellow Star: A Story of East West, by Elaine Goodale Eastman features illustrations by De Cora and her husband, William Henry Dietz. Her illustrations are rare for her time period because she portrayed Native Americans wearing contemporary clothing.


Angel De Cora contracted pneumonia, and she died in the Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Northampton, Massachusetts on 6 February 1919. She is buried at the Bridge Street Cemetery.[12]


  1. ^ Hutchinson, 740
  2. ^ Peyer 325
  3. ^ a b c d e Hexom, Charles P. (1913). Indian History of Winneshiek County. Decorah, Iowa: Bailey and Sons.
  4. ^ Spack, Ruth (1997). "Re-visioning Siouz women: Zitkala-Sa's revolutionary American Indian Stories". Legacy. 14: 25–42.
  5. ^ Kilinaka, Hinook-Mahiwi- (1910). Angel de Cora: An Autobiography. University of Virginia, Library Website.
  6. ^ Hutchinson, Elizabeth (2001). "Modern Native American art: Angel DeCora's transcultural aesthetics". The Art Bulletin New York (83): 740–756.
  7. ^ Tom Holm. The Great Confusion in Indian Affairs: Native Americans and Whites in the Progressive Era (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2005) p. 98
  8. ^ Linda M. Waggoner, "On Trial The Washington R*dskins' Wily Mascot: Coach William Lone Star Dietz", Montana: The Magazine of Western History, Spring 2013, pp. 24-47. Available at
  9. ^ Waggoner, xiii
  10. ^ Waggoner, 101
  11. ^ [1], "Angel De Cora and an Innovative Use of Indian Art," at
  12. ^ Waggoner, 250


  • Peyer, Bernd. American Indian Nonfiction: An Anthology of Writings, 1760s-1930s . Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2007. ISBN 978-0-8061-3798-8.
  • Hutchinson, Elizabeth. "Modern Native American Art: Angel DeCora's Transcultural Aesthetics." Art Bulletin. Vol. 83, 4. Dec. 2001: 740-756.
  • Waggoner, Linda M. Firelight: The Life of Angel De Cora, Winnebago Artist. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2008. ISBN 978-0-8061-3954-8.

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