Published on July 31, 2012 by Amy
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.
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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 Winnebago of French ancestry. Her mother was a member of the influential LaMere family.
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.
Angel was played an important role in the turn-of-the-century, since she exhibited her art to both Native and non-Native audiences. She understanding being Indian, had personally experienced historical trauma of being assimilated, and had witnessed genocide. She understood ancestral historical trauma through the tearing apart of Winnebago families, culture, and land. Still she maintained a strong resilience in life to overcome and flourish. She successfully adapted to Euro-American culture.
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”. Her oil Painting, “for an Indian school exhibit, for the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York” demonstrates the technical prowess and emotional depth of her art.
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.