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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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100 Years Ago in Spokane: Football player accused of not really being Indian in draft evasion trial

Federal prosecutors revealed a bombshell on the first day of the William H. “Lone Star” Dietz draft evasion trial, claiming that Dietz was an “impostor” and not an Indian at all. (Jonathan Brunt / The Spokesman-Review)
Federal prosecutors revealed a bombshell on the first day of the William H. “Lone Star” Dietz draft evasion trial, claiming that Dietz was an “impostor” and not an Indian at all. (Jonathan Brunt / The Spokesman-Review)

Federal prosecutors revealed a bombshell on the first day of the William H. “Lone Star” Dietz draft evasion trial, claiming Dietz was an “impostor” and not a Native American at all.

Dietz had become famous as a Native American football player and coach. But the prosecution set out to show that Dietz was not born on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, but was born in Wisconsin, the son of a sheriff and his wife (both non-Native Americans). The government further claimed that Dietz later took on the identity of a Native American named One Star or Lone Star in order to “pry” his way into the government’s Carlisle Indian Industrial School, where he became famous as a football player.

This was central to the government’s charge that Dietz lied on his draft questionnaire, claiming he was a “non-citizen Indian” and thus not subject to the draft.

Dietz’s lawyers set out to prove that Dietz was in fact the illegitimate son of the sheriff and an unidentified Native American woman, and had 50% Native American blood. The sheriff’s divorced wife, Mrs. Leanna Lewis, was prepared to testify that she was his foster mother.

The government called a witness from Wisconsin who said he knew Dietz and that there was never any “suspicion or rumor” that Dietz had Native American blood, and that he was surprised when he later heard news reports about the “famous Indian football player” and coach at Washington State College.

Dietz’s aunt and uncle from Wisconsin testified that Mrs. Lewis was in fact the boy’s mother, and they visited mother and child two days after the baby was born.

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