Born in Cincinnati, Ohio, John Hauser studied at the Ohio Mechanic's Institute and at the Cincinnati Art Association before he reached the age of fifteen. Deciding to pursue his love of art, he became the pupil of Thomas A. Noble at the McMicken Art School in 1873. Furthering his studies, he moved to Germany when he was twenty-two years old and became the pupil of Nicholas Gysis at the Royal Academy of Fine Art in Munich. After returning to America in 1891, Hauser traveled extensively throughout New Mexico and Arizona, adopting as his specialty the American Indian. He made yearly visits to the reservations, painting portraits of documentary accuracy and genre scenes of Indians in canoes and on horseback. Hauser so earned the admiration and respect of those Indians that he painted and worked with, that he was officially adopted into the Sioux nation in 1901 and given the Indian name "Straight White Shield."