Reclaiming James One Star: PART ONE
Pine Ridge So Dak. Jan. 29 1914.
Please I want you to do little thing for me. I like know where is one star or
lone star i think name is james one star or lone star. he left the oglala
reservation many years he is going to school, some where i think go to
carlisle ind sch. and he never get home and last iheard he was outto
soldier some wherebut i heard come back to school again he only got one
sister lives so she like to know where is he now. i think he is 40 or over
years old by this time iwant you to do that right the away and you let me
know you try to finde out please.
your truly Chas Yellow Boy
Long ago a boy was born in the western territory of the Dakotas. His name
was James One Star, though how he came by this name is no longer known. It
may have been given to him when he was born, along with a traditional
Oglala birth order name. It may have been a sacred clan name, bestowed upon
him by his elders, marking the onset of an early manhood. Perhaps it was
only his "English" name, appropriated to him by U.S. officials so he could
be easily identified on tribal rolls. Since the name of his father is
unknown, this name indicates a close relationship with the boy's maternal
uncle, who was known simply as "One Star."
The elder One Star portrayed a Plains Indian warrior in Buffalo Bill's Wild
West Show. While attending the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair, he met a young
man and was compelled to tell him about his nephew, James One Star. Maybe
there was something about the young man that touched One Star, allowing his
words to flow freely from his heart. He began to share the sadness and loss
he felt, because his beloved nephew had been missing for over 10 years.
William Henry Dietz, athletic in spirit and imaginative by nature, was
mesmerized by the gentle warrior's romantic tale. As a result of this
fateful meeting, James One Star would begin to fade into oblivion, and in
his place, "Lone Star" Dietz was born.
But what's in a name, really? Aren't "One Star" and "Lone Star" nearly
interchangeable? Charles Yellow Boy wanted to believe they were. In fact,
in 1914 when he wrote to the superintendent of the Carlisle Indian and
Industrial School in Carlisle, Pa., he thought maybe the two names
identified the same man. He hoped to tell Sally Eagle Horse her brother was
alive. After all, from the Lakota language, Wicarhpi Isnala, can be
translated as either "One Star," "Only Star," or "Lone Star" - though in
the idiom of American English, a "Lone Star" to all appearances outshines
In order to reclaim James One Star, it's essential to examine the legacy of
the man who virtually replaced him, William Henry Dietz (1884 - 1964),
alias "Lone Star." Though dead for 40 years, Dietz is currently at the
center of a controversy where names are significant. Officially, the
conflict began in 1992 when seven American Indians, headed by well-known
Cheyenne writer and activist, Suzan Shown Harjo, confronted the Washington
Redskins football franchise, requesting that it cancel six of its
trademarks in lieu of the Lanham act, which prohibits the registration of
names that are "disparaging, scandalous, contemptuous or disreputable." The
defense, Redskin's owner, Pro-Football Inc., answered the charge with the
counterclaim that the name was not disparaging but "honorific" to Native
Americans and further added that it "would face massive financial losses if
it lost the exclusivity of the brand it had marketed for 36 years." In
April of 1999 the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board ruled for the
plaintiffs, agreeing to cancel the trademark, but pending appeal.
When the decision was made, a satisfied Harjo exclaimed, "the judges agreed
with us that the R-word never was honorific and is not ... now." But the
victory for Harjo and Native America was short lived. The club's current
owner, Daniel Snyder, immediately appealed the decision and defended the
team's name by revealing its "honorific" tribute to an Oglala Sioux from
the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, none other than William "Lone
In Indian Country Today Harjo stated that as soon as the appeal was filed,
the team "lawyers trekked out to South Dakota in a modern-day version of
the white man trading trinkets for Manhattan. The chief-makers gave away
jerseys, jackets and hats sporting the team's name and asked for signatures
on a paper saying the R-word is an honor." The 1999 ruling was overturned
last fall, though not as a result of the field trip to Pine Ridge. The
Washington team is to remain racially and offensively red-skinned - at
least that's how those opposed to the name hear it.
But the team representatives perceive the name differently. For them
"Redskins" is more than skin-deep; it is deeply nostalgic. And team
nostalgia is a common sentiment invoked in the many "Indian" mascot and
sport team name disputes, as shown in the "Factual Background" for the
appeal made by the attorneys for Pro-Football Inc.:
On or about July 8, 1932, George Preston Marshall, along with Vincent
Bendix, Jay O'Brien, and Dorland Doyle, purchased a then-inactive Boston
National Football League franchise. Within the year, his co-owners dropped
out and Mr. Marshall was left as the sole owner of the franchise. The
Boston team played the 1932 season at Braves Field, home of Boston's
then-national baseball team, and like the baseball team, were known as "The
Braves." On or about July 8, 1933, Mr. Marshall officially changed the name
of his franchise from the "Boston Braves" to the Boston Redskins." Mr.
Marshall chose to rename his franchise the Redskins in honor of the team's
head coach, William "Lone Star" Dietz, who was a Native American.
But was William "Lone Star" Dietz truly an American Indian? The answer to
this question may surprise most everyone involved in the case.
(Continued in Part Two)
Linda Waggoner has taught for 12 years in the American Multicultural
Studies and Philosophy departments at Sonoma State University in
California. She is currently finishing a biography on Winnebago artist and
educator Angel DeCora Dietz (1869 - 1919) and has written "Neither White
Men Nor Indians," published in 2002.