To recognize De Cora’s life and contributions on two anniversaries – the 150th anniversary of her birth and the 125th anniversary of her graduation from Smith College, the Society of Illustrators will host a talk by Yvonne Tiger on De Cora’s work as illustrator, designer, typographer, and an important figure in a broad community of Native American writers, artists, intellectuals and activists in turn of the twentieth century America. Tiger is a scholar, curator, and art historian, and member of a prominent Native American artistic family. She is also a graduate of Smith College (’03) where she wrote her honors thesis on De Cora. She holds two master’s degrees from the University of Oklahoma, is Ph.D. candidate at the University of Lethbridge, and is currently a Native American Curatorial Fellow at the Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA.
Hinook-Mahiwi-Kalinaka, a.k.a. Angel De Cora (Hōcąk Nīšoc Haci/Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska; 1871-1919) was an influential artist and illustrator, designer and teacher, and the first Native American graduate of Smith College (class of 1896). De Cora studied with some of the finest artists of the day, Tonalist painter Dwight William Tryon at Smith and famous illustrator Howard Pyle at Drexel. Beginning her career as an illustrator with the most prestigious magazine of the day, she wrote and illustrated two stories for Harper’s. She illustrated books for a series of influential and successful authors, including Francis La Flesche (Omaha), the first professional Native American ethnologist; Zitkala-Ša (Gertrude Bonnin; Yankton Dakota), influential writer and activist, co-founder of the National Council of American Indians; and Elaine Goodale Eastman, collaborator with her husband, Charles Eastman (Santee Dakota) in his work as historian and activist. De Cora was also an influential teacher of the arts to Native American students at the Carlisle Indian Industrial School, and is now being recognized as a highly influential book and type designer who was key in bringing Native American imagery into the graphic arts in respectful and resonant ways. Her most influential work, Natalie Curtis’s The Indians’ Book, is a masterpiece of design, typography, and illustration, recently recognized for its importance in works on book design (for example in Richard Minsky’s Trade Bindings with Native American Themes, 1875-1933) and by the design professionals’ organization AIGA.