Art invites others to get to know us and our culture, and even help people understand themselves. Despite being told at a young age to devalue her culture, Angel De Cora used her art to promote it!
ANGEL DE CORA DIETZ
PAINTER, ILLUSTRATOR & EDUCATOR
Angel De Cora was born into the Thunderbird clan, and was granddaughter to the chief of the Winnebago tribe. A relative named her after opening the Bible and seeing the word “angel.” Her Winnebago tribal name was Hinook-Mahiwi-Kalinaka (Fleecy Cloud Floating in Space).
At a young age, De Cora was kidnapped from her family in Nebraska. She was taken to the Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute in Virginia, a boarding school created by the U.S. federal government with the goal of stripping Indian girls of their culture and teaching them to be good housewives. When she was returned to her mourning mother three years later, she found out her father, the old chief and his wife had died, and their old Indian life was over.
Later, De Cora studied art at Smith College, Drexel Institute, and the Cowles Art School in Boston. She married William Henry “Lone Star” Dietz. Dietz and De Cora both taught art at the Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania.
De Cora’s art had emotional depth. She painted warm childhood memories of life in Nebraska. She illustrated books, including two of her own stories for Harper’s New Monthly Magazine in 1899, both featuring Native American girl protagonists. De Cora and her husband’s illustrations can be seen In the 1911 “Yellow Star: A Story of East and West.” De Cora’s illustrations were unusual for the time because she drew Native Americans in contemporary clothing.
Despite being kidnapped at a young age and being taught to devalue her culture, De Cora created thoughtful, humanizing images of Native Americans in her work, and promoted the value of Native American art and design. Before World War I, she was the most well-known Native American artist.
Photo by Gustave Hensel Studio - Hampton University Archives, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16170254
Scan by Elaine Goodale Eastman, illustrations by Angel De Cora and William Henry “Lone Star” Dietz - “Yellow Star: A Story of East and West” book, scanned, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6612296