Reverend James Owen Dorsey (1848-1895) was a missionary and Bureau of American Ethnology ethnologist who conducted extensive research on Siouan tribes and languages.The papers of James Owen Dorsey comprise mostly ethnographic and linguistic materials on various tribes of the Siouan language family as well as tribes from Siletz Reservation in Oregon. These materials include texts and letters with interlineal translations; grammar notes; dictionaries; drawings; and his manuscripts. In addition, the collection contains Dorsey's correspondence, newspaper clippings, his obituaries, and reprints.
Scope and Contents:
This collection contains James O. Dorsey's research and writings as a BAE ethnologist, as well as his earlier work as a missionary among the Ponca. The vast majority of the collection pertains to his research on Siouan-Catawban languages, including the Dakota and Dhegiha languages, Chiwere, Winnebago, Mandan, Hidatsa, Tutelo, Biloxi, and Catawba. His research on Athapascan, Kusan, Takilman, and Yakonan languages from his field work at Siletz Reservation are also present, as well as some notes on the Caddoan languages. Dorsey's research files include linguistic and ethnological field notes, reading notes, stories and myths, vocabularies, drawings, and unpublished and published manuscripts. The collection also contains Omaha, Ponca, Quapaw, and Biloxi dictionaries that he compiled and materials relating to his work editing Steven Riggs' Dakota-English Dictionary. Additional noteworthy materials in the collection are Teton texts and drawings from George Bushotter and drawings by Stephen Stubbs (Kansa), Pahaule-gagli (Kansa), and George Miller (Omaha). The collection also contains Dorsey's correspondence, newspaper clippings, obituaries, and his collection of reprints.
The collection is organized into 6 series: 1) Siouan; 2) Siletz Reservation; 3) Caddoan; 4) General Correspondence; 5) Personal Papers; 6) Miscellaneous & Reprints.
Reverend James Owen Dorsey (1848-1895) was a missionary and Bureau of American Ethnology ethnologist who conducted extensive research on Siouan tribes and languages.
Dorsey was born on October 31, 1848 in Baltimore, Maryland. He exhibited a talent for languages at an early age. At age 6 he learned the Hebrew alphabet and was able to read the language at age 10. In 1867 Dorsey attended the Theological Seminary of Virginia and was ordained a deacon of the Protestant Episcopal Church in 1871. In May of that year, Dorsey traveled to the Dakota Territory to serve as a missionary among the Ponca. Plagued by ill health, Dorsey was forced to end his missionary work in August 1873. By that time, however, he had learned the Ponca language well enough to converse with members of the tribe without an interpreter.
Dorsey returned to Maryland and engaged in parish work while continuing his studies of Siouan languages. His linguistic talents and knowledge of these languages attracted the attention of Major John Wesley Powell. Powell arranged for Dorsey to work among the Omaha in Nebraska from 1878 to 1880 to collect linguistic and ethnological notes. When the Bureau of American Ethnology (BAE) was established in 1879, Powell recruited Dorsey to join the staff.
As an ethnologist for the BAE, Dorsey continued his research on Siouan tribes. His studies focused on languages but also included Siouan personal names, folklore, social organization, religion, beliefs, and customs. He conducted fieldwork among the Tutelo at Six Nations on Grand River in Upper Canada (1882); the Kansa, Osage, and Quapaw in Indian Territory (1883-1884); the Biloxi at Lecompte, Rapides Parish, Louisiana (1892); and again with the Quapaw at the Quapaw Mission (1894). He also worked with Native Americans that visited DC, including George Bushotter (Teton), Philip Longtail (Winnebago), Samuel Fremont (Omaha), and Little Standing Buffalo (Ponca). He also spent time at Siletz Reservation in 1884 to collect linguistic notes on the Athapascan, Kusan, Takilman, and Yakonan stocks.
In addition to his research, Dorsey helped found the American Folklore Society and served as the first vice-president of the association. He also served as vice-president of Section H of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
At the age of 47, Dorsey died of typhoid fever on February 4, 1895.
1st-16th Annual Reports of the Bureau of American Ethnology. 1881-1897.
Hewitt, J.N.B. 1895. "James Owen Dorsey" American Anthropologist A8, 180-183.
McGee, W.J. 1895. "In Memoriam." Journal of American Folklore 8(28): 79-80.
1848 -- Born on October 31 in Baltimore, Maryland.
1871 -- Ordained a deacon of the Protestant Episcopal Church.
1871-1873 -- Served as a missionary among the Ponca in Dakota Territory.
1878-1880 -- Conducted fieldwork among the Omaha in Nebraska.
1879 -- Joined the staff of the Bureau of American Ethnology.
1882 -- Conducted fieldwork among the Tutelo at Six Nations on Grand River in Upper Canada.
1883-1884 -- Conducted fieldwork among the Kansa, Osage, and Quapaw in Indian Territory.
1887 -- Worked with George Bushotter to record information regarding the language and culture of the Dakota.
1884 -- Conducted fieldwork at Siletz Reservation.
1892 -- Conducted fieldwork among the Biloxi at Lecompte, Rapides Parish, Louisiana.
1894 -- Conducted fieldwork among the Quapaw at the Quapaw Mission in Indian Territory.
1895 -- Died of typhoid fever on February 4th at the age of 47.
The James O. Dorsey Papers are open for research. Access to the James O. Dorsey Papers requires an appointment
Manuscript 4800 James O. Dorsey papers, National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution
Creation of this finding aid was funded through support from the Arcadia Fund.
Digitization and preparation of additional materials for online access has been funded also by the National Science Foundation under BCS Grant No. 1561167 and the Recovering Voices initiative at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History.
List compiled by Mooney. Includes letter from Dorsey to H.W. Henshaw, giving comparative information from other Siouan languages. October 14, 1890. Typescript and autograph letter signed. 2 pages. Also note from Gatschet to Mooney giving some Biloxi, Catawba and Tutelo comparisons. No date. Autograph letter. 1 page.
Contents: Comparative vocabulary, 117 items, in English, Hidatsa, Ofo, Mandan, Dakota, Biloxi, Tutelo, Osage and (a few) Winnebago. 3 pages. Comparison of 24 words: English, Catawba, Ofo, Tutelo, Dakota and Quapaw. 1 slip. Synonyms for the name "Ofo". 1 slip. Summary of history of classification of Tutelo, Catawba, and Woccon as Siouan. 1 slip.
Photographs made by Herman J. Viola, depicting the 1973 Institute of American Indian Art meeting, Wolf Robe Hunt and his Acoma pottery, the transfer of Blue Eagle collection from Mae Abbott home to National Anthropological archives, and the 1974 Star Hawk Pow Wow in Watonga, Oklahoma. Additionally, there are photographs of NAA staff and the 1974 Acee Blue Eagle reception at NAA, possibly made by Viola. The collection also contains some photographs of Wounded Knee taken by Rev. Salvatore Genete, and copies of official portraits of Governor Aquillar of San Ildefonso Pueblo made by Harry B. Neufeld. There are also National Archives photographs of Chinese Boxer Rebellion prints, and Young watercolors and Alden sketches of American landscapes.
Much of the collection consists of portraits of participants in the NAA's American Indian Cultural Resources Training Program made by Smithsonian photographers, including Victor Krantz. These individuals include: Harry Walters, Navajo; Anna Walters, Otoe-Pawnee; George Sutton, Southern Arapaho; Sarah Yazzie, Navajo; Rubie Sootkis, Norther Cheyenne; David Fanman, Cheyenne; Augustine Smith, Navajo; Lorraine Bigman, Navajo; Jim Jefferson, Southern Ute; Rose Marie Pierite Gallardo, Tunica-Biloxi; George Horse Capture, Gros Ventre; Violet Zospah, White Mountain Apache; Gloria Anderson, Mille Lacs; Wenonah Silva, Wampanoag; Claire Lamont, Oglala; George Wasson, Coos-Coquille; Virginia Martin, Yakama; Gary Roybal, San Ildefonso; Richard Ground, Sihasapa; Almeda Baker, Hidatsa; June Finley, Hidatsa; Lida Young Wolf, Hidatsa; Christine Webster, Menominee; Rose Marie Roybal, Puyallup; Vivienne Jake, Kaibab-Paiute; Kim Yerton, Hupa; Dean Jacobs, Ojibwa; Lois Nowlin, Shawnee; Bonita McCloud, Nisqually; Gloria Maude Blackbird Cheswalla, Osage; Emily Peake, Ojibwa; Gordon McLester, Oneida; Mary Seth, Nez Perce; Bill Tohee, Oto-Missouria; Frank LaPena, Wintu; Juanita McQuistion, Wyandot; Carson Waterman, Seneca; Elton Stumbling Bear, Kiowa Apache; Patrick Chief Stick, Chippewa-Cree; Lynne Walks-on-Top, Spokane; Ethelyn Garfield, Paiute; Nora Dauenhauer, Tlingit; Caroline B. Jones, Tulalip; Grace F. Thorpe, Sauk and Fox; Dixie Lee Davis, Yavapai; Lynn D. Pauahty, Kiowa; David Lee Harding, Ojibwa; Robert V. Bojorcas, Klamath; Patty Leah Harjo, Seneca-Cayuga; Steven DeCoteau, Clallam; Robert Van Gunten, Ojibwa; Danny K. Marshall, Steilacoom; Meredith P. Flinn, Makah; Rhonda Hulsey, Chickasaw; Betty J. Brown, Choctaw; Vernon Calavaza, Zuni; Jack Bowen Jr., Upper Skagit; and Harry William Jr., Pima.
Herman Joseph Viola is a historian of Native Americans who was director of the National Anthropological Archives from 1972-1989 and founding editor of Prologue: The Journal of the National Archives. In 1973, he launched the American Indian Cultural Resources Training Program, designed to encourage Native Americans to become professional archivists, librarians, curators, and historians through research and internships at the NAA.
Local Call Number(s):
NAA Photo Lot 74-17
Location of Other Archival Materials:
The National Anthropological Archives holds Viola's papers from 1980-1981.
Records relating to the American Indian Cultural Resources Training Program can be found in the National Anthropological Archives in the Records of the National Anthropological Archives.
Indians of North America -- Southern states Search this
Photo lot 74-17, Herman J. Viola photograph collection relate to Star Hawk Pow Wow, American Indian Cultural Resources Training Program, and acquisition trips for NAA, National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution
Includes: census of Indian families in several Louisiana towns, pages 2 and 200; Houma vocabulary, pages 3, 198, and 4; Alibamu belt design, page 8; Hitchiti and Creek stories, pages 29-33, 172-169; and diagram of "Stomp ground in Greenleaf Mtns. for Natchez and Cherokee," page 58. Diary of May 2-22  in Louisiana; then proceeds to Indian Territory. In stenographic notebook. Is numbered 1-100 on on side of pages and 101-200 running back the other way on reverse; but notes have been taken in normal order. Partial outline of contents prepared summer, 1970 by M. C. Blaker gives page numbers in order inscribed, Incomplete outline of contents left with manuscript.-- MCB, 6/1972.
Subject and date identified on back of source print. Dorsey is mentioned as owner of photograph. He is identified as photographer on negative jacket [NAA Source Print Co-In.: S.E. Biloxi: USNM Unnumbered] of photos taken at same time and place.
Black and white direct duplicate of original negative
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