[expositie] Angel De Cora Dietz

Angel De Cora Dietz
by Angelina Senchi

Angel De Cora Dietz, also known as Hinook-Mahiwi-Kalinaka, was born on the Winnebago (Ho-Huck) Reservation in Nebraska, 1971. She lived there until age 14, when she was kidnapped, taken away from her family, and brought to Hampton, Virginia in order to be assimilated into American culture. De Cora worked for a white family and went to the Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute, which aimed to erase her Indigenous heritage and replace it with European cultural values. However, De Cora continued to depict Native Americans in a humanizing way. 

De Cora went on to study art at Smith College and then illustration at the Drexel Institute of Art under Howard Pyle, who was one of her biggest supporters. She then studied life drawing at Cowles Art School, and then at The School of the Museum of Fine Arts. De Cora had been primarily illustrating and painting, but eventually turned to design in her work, deciding that was the best medium to convey Native American motifs. De Cora was hired by the Carlisle Industrial Indian School in 1906, as the first Native Arts instructor. She went out of her way to teach her students to draw from their distinct tribes, working against the idea of homogeneous Native American art. She also traveled to give lectures on Native American Art, and designed many book covers and illustrations. De Cora collaborated with white authors, which led some to consider her work as not being “authentic” Native American art. However, this was a step towards political activism and representation of Native Americans. De Cora tragically died from pneumonia at age 47, but she left behind a legacy of using art as a means of resistance and visibility for Native Americans. 

De Cora humanized Native American life in her paintings, drawing from her personal connection to Native American lived realities. She depicted Native Americans with dignity rather than exotifying them. De Cora combined illustration, landscape painting, and design in her work. Her art aimed to resist the marginalization and discrimination of indigenous people and to make their culture more visible to a white audience, portraying it with beauty and the nostalgia of her childhood, rather than the typical depictions of Native Americans as primitive and savage. De Cora combined Native American and Western techniques to create her own  distinctly feminine, Native American lens, a perspective historically overlooked.