Native American culture, is separated into five main culture districts or zones, which allows for clearer interpretation of the works of art and culture. Those districts are the East, the Plains, the Southwest and Northwest coast, and the Arctic. Forms of Native American art differ considerably within the zones due to the climate, various traditions among different groups of natives, natural environment, social order, different religious beliefs, and available materials with which to work. With the arrival of the railroad in the West during the eighteenth century, imported materials became more widely available, so those pigments were adopted along with preferred colors that also varied by region. Painting still continues in traditional form with a variety of objects and surfaces decorated: ceramic vessels and figurines, masks, sculpture and carvings (such as kachina dolls; shields, ritual equipment, musical instruments, hide and woven clothing, the human body, sacred chambers, and cliffs and rocks).
DeCora's family was one of means-her grandfather was a respected chief of the Winnebago, and on good terms with the whites and white settlers; her mother was a La Mere, another important family in the tribe. Julia St. Cyr, an older Winnebago acting as agent for the Hampton Institute in Virginia, convinced DeCora's parents to send her to school there. At 12 years of age, she was taken from the reservation to one of the era’s most well-known Indian boarding schools, where, like many other Indian children, she faced not only separation from family but the systematic indoctrination of racist policy meant to assimilate the Indians into mainstream American society.
DeCora remained at Hampton for the required five years. She was sent back to the reservation where she found the old way of life had largely disappeared and, at sixteen years old, could not cope with the dual loss of her father and grandfather. She returned to the East to complete her education and then attended Burnham Classical School for Girls in Northampton, Massachusetts between 1891-1892. After graduation, she spent four years at Smith College (1892-1896) also located in Northampton, where she excelled in art. Dwight Tryon (1849-1925) was a well-known American landscape painter and art professor at Smith, who had a profound influence on DeCora's art. Her tendency to silhouette figures of people or buildings on a horizontal picture plane with a darkened foreground and a softly lighted background may be a technique learned from Tryon. She likely also gained a broad knowledge of art history from him since his philosophy was that "theory and practice should go hand in hand." DeCora studied illustration at the Drexel institute in Philadelphia, the Cowles Art School, and finally at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. 
|DeCora painting in Howard Pyle's Franklin Stree Studio|
Wilmington, DE, ca. 1898