The legend of Lone Star Dietz: Redskins namesake, coach — and possible impostor?

The legend of Lone Star Dietz: Redskins namesake, coach — and possible impostor?

The Washington Post

Richard Leiby

Reading, Pa. — Here lies the celebrated Lone Star Dietz — in a donated cemetery plot, aside a back road, under a drooping evergreen. A simple marker, paid for by friends, bears only one word that hints at his legend: “Coach.”

Finally, we have found him, the Washington Redskins’ namesake. Dietz coached the inaugural Boston Redskins team 80 years ago, before it moved to Washington. He was a Sioux Indian, and the team was named in his honor, “out of respect for Native American heritage and tradition.”

That is what the team’s attorneys have said, anyway, in court filings battling an effort by Native Americans to cancel the Redskins trademark as disparaging — a campaign more than two decades old. Now the objections to the name are reaching an unprecedented volume, including Tuesday’s D.C. Council vote condemning the team name as “racist and derogatory.”

In the midst of this criticism, team owner Dan Snyder wrote a letter to season-ticket holders last month in which he mentioned the team’s former Native American head coach and called the name “a badge of honor.”

But what if Coach Lone Star Dietz wasn’t an Indian?…

…A half-century after his death, it seems that no one has decisively pinned down the heritage of William Henry “Lone Star” Dietz. This makes the Redskins’ flat-out assertions that the First Coach was an Indian even more problematic for some…

…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…

Read the entire article here.

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