Opinion | Sports

Column: Doubting Indian heritage claims of famed football coach

Writer discusses the questionable Indian heritage claims of William Henry "Lone Star" Dietz and how they have been used by the Washington professional football team:
Dietz’s claims about his Sioux origins were accepted and repeated for decades by researchers and credulous reporters.

I was one of them. Ninety years after The Post first took note of Dietz and his artistry at the 1904 World’s Fair, I wrote about him. “His father was German, his mother Sioux,” I said in a story about how the Redskins got their name.

At the time, my understanding of Dietz’s heritage was based on the available scholarship and a number of interviews. Indians I talked to did not raise questions about his self-proclaimed Sioux identity.

But years later, research by Waggoner and Benjey brought to light substantial new evidence about Dietz’s past. Waggoner found holes in his origin story while researching a book on Dietz’s first wife, the Winnebago Indian artist Angel De Cora. Benjey, who lives near Carlisle, became fascinated by Dietz and self-published the book “Keep A-Goin’,” which largely celebrates Dietz’s accomplishments.

The new material doesn’t just burnish the legend of Lone Star Dietz. It also exhumes a scandalous chapter of the storied coach’s career.

The most reliable narrative of Dietz’s life can be derived from his football career, and that really starts in south-central Pennsylvania at the Carlisle Indian Industrial School — a federal facility that was part of the government’s push to “civilize” the Indian by vanquishing Indian culture and reeducating the race.

Get the Story:
The legend of Lone Star Dietz: Redskins namesake, coach — and possible imposter? (The Washington Post 11/7)

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