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files include linguistic and ethnological field notes, reading notes, stories and myths, vocabularies, drawings, and unpublished and published manuscripts.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.
Indians of North America -- Southern States Search this
Scope and Contents:
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.
Indians of North America -- Southern States Search this
Scope and Contents:
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.
Photographs documenting Iroquois people made circa 1897-circa 1937 on and near the Six Nations Reserve by J.N.B. Hewitt, linguist with the Smithsonian Institution's Bureau of American Ethnology.
Scope and Contents note:
Hewitt's photos primarily depict Mohawk, Cayuga, Seneca, Onondaga, Tuscarora, Oneida, and Tutelo peoples. There are also a few images of Iroquois houses and other structures, Hewitt's mask collection, and Onondaga Chief John Buck and family, Seneca Chief John Arthur Gibson and family, Cayuga Chief James Jamieson and family, and Cayuga-Seneca Chief Simeon Gibson. Most of the photographs were taken during several trips between 1897 and 1937, on and near the Six Nations Reserve in Ontario (Oshweken, Deseronto, and Brantsford), and New York (Niagara Falls, Nedrow, and Syracuse).
For Photo Lot 155 Hewitt's original arrangement and numbering has been maintained. The order of the photographs does not follow the chronology that they were taken; for instance there are often several photographs of an individual that were clearly made in different years. The original negatives also represent a variety of film and camera types.
The arrangement and numbering for MS 4596, established at an unknown time, was maintained.
J.N.B. (John Napoleon Brinton) Hewitt (December 6, 1859-October 14, 1937) was a linguist and ethnographer who specialized in Iroquoian and other Native American languages. Born on the Tuscarora Reservation near Lewiston, New York, his mother was of Tuscarora, French, Oneida, and Scottish descent. His father's heritage was English and Scottish, but he was raised in a Tuscarora family. Hewitt spoke English growing up, but when he left the reservation to attend schools in Wilson and Lockport, he learned to speak the Tuscarora language from other students. Hewitt grew up planning to become a physician, like his father. However, the course of Hewitt's interests changed when, in 1880, he was hired by Erminnie A. Smith of the Smithsonian Institution's Bureau of Ethnology (now the Bureau of American Ethnology) as an assistant ethnologist tasked with collecting myths among the Iroquoian tribes of New York. He continued this work from 1880-1884, and then was briefly employed by the Jersey City Railways Co. (1884-1885) and Adams Express Co. (1885-1886). Upon Smith's death in 1886, Hewitt returned to the BAE to continue her work, remaining employed there until his death.
Over the course of his career, Hewitt became the leading authority on the organization of the Iroquois League and the ceremonials, customs, and usages of the tribes composing it. He acquired an intimate knowledge of the languages of the League, including a speaking knowledge of Mohawk and Onondaga, and also became acquainted with several Algonquian dialects. On February 28, 1914, in recognition of his services in preserving for posterity a knowledge of the history and ethnology of the Iroquoian people of New York state, he was awarded the Cornplanter medal for Iroquois Research.
Additionally, he was a founder of the American Anthropological Association and an active member of the Anthropological Society of Washington and the American Museum of Natural History, serving as both treasurer (1912-1926) and president (1932-1934) of the latter. Hewitt also contributed over one hundred articles for the Handbook of American Indians (Bulletin 30) and published the two volume Iroquoian Cosmology (1903 and 1928).