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files include linguistic and ethnological field notes, reading notes, stories and myths, vocabularies, drawings, and unpublished and published manuscripts.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.
This subseries of the Plains series contains Harrington's Mandan, Hidatsa, and Crow research. The materials primarily consist of comparative vocabulary, comparative grammar, ethnographic notes, texts, and grammar. Small selections of Oto, Quapaw, Shawnee, Arikara, and Sioux terms are interspersed among the vocabulary and grammatical notes.
The vocabulary section (former B.A.E. ms. 6009pt.) is semantically arranged and covers eighteen categories. Carl R. Sylvester (abbreviated "Syl.") provided the Hidatsa terms and the Mandan came from Mark Mahto. There are comparatively few Crow terms. The material contains substantial linguistic elaborations; some ethnographic observations are also included, particularly in the plant vocabulary. While in Billings, Montana, Harrington evidently planned to rehear a Crow clan and relationship vocabulary copied from Robert H. Lowie's Notes on the Social Organization and Customs of the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Crow Indians (1917). Few expressions, however, were reheard (former B.A.E. ms. 6003). Hidatsa material is sometimes identified by the term "Hir." Presumably Harrington was using Hira'tsa, an orthography variously applied in his notes to the language, people, or "ancient" village of Hidatsa. This interchange of "d" and "r" occurs elsewhere in the field notes--Chiwe-dhe for Chiwere, for example. The etymology of the name Hidatsa is apparently vague; there are some pertinent references to this subject among the mythology and tradition notes.
As with the vocabulary notes, there is more information on Hidatsa and Mandan than on Crow in Harrington's grammatical material. Phonetics and morphology are covered, with subcategories labeled by Harrington. This series was formerly catalogued as part of B.A.E. ms. 6009.
Also among Harrington's files is an article titled "New Materials in the Coracle of the Mandan Indians," which he submitted for publication in the American Anthropologist. He obtained most of the information from Crowsheart on September 26, 1950, and from Crowsheart's daughter, Annie Eagle, both of whom lived on the Fort Berthold Reservation in North Dakota. The content of the final draft is almost entirely ethnographic. The notes, however, indicate an attempt to provide a linguistic treatment of the subject, with Hidatsa and Crow comparisons from Sylvester and Mahto. This article (former B.A.E. ms. 6008) was not published.The route of Harrington's trip to Crowsheart's home and a bus trip from Brunswick to Kansas City are described in detail. There is a brief section on mythology and traditions (former B.A.E. ms. 6009pt.).
There is also a small set of reading notes from Washington Matthews' Ethnography and Philology of the Hidatsa Indians (1877) that deals mainly with the name "Missouri River." Additional information covers names of persons, a bibliography, and a few unsorted notes (former B.A.E. ms. 6009pt.). Other miscellaneous material was labeled "Rejects" by Harrington, including an interview in Bismark with a Mrs. Rubia, who had a Hidatsa mother and a Mandan father.
Biographical / Historical:
Between July and December 1950, John P. Harrington spent time at the Crow Indian reservation in southern Montana and at Fort Berthold in North Dakota. He returned to Washington on December 19 and spent from then until March 9, 1951, reporting on his fieldwork. The bulk of information was elicited from Carl R. Sylvester, a Hidatsa Indian, and from Mark Mahto, a Mandan. He interviewed Mahto's ninety-four-year-old father-in-law, Crowsheart, on September 26, 1950, after which he drafted a proposed article on Mandan coracles, or bullboats. In 1951 he tried unsuccessfully to secure Bureau of American Ethnology backing for the construction of a coracle, under Crowsheart's direction, for display in the National Museum.
John Peabody Harrington papers, National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution
The preferred citation for the Harrington Papers will reference the actual location within the collection, i.e. Box 172, Alaska/Northwest Coast, Papers of John Peabody Harrington, National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution.
However, as the NAA understands the need to cite phrases or vocabulary on specific pages, a citation referencing the microfilmed papers is acceptable. Please note that the page numbering of the PDF version of the Harrington microfilm does not directly correlate to the analog microfilm frame numbers. If it is necessary to cite the microfilmed papers, please refer to the specific page number of the PDF version, as in: Papers of John Peabody Harrington, Microfilm: MF 7, R34 page 42.