James Owen Dorsey


1848 – 1895


Who was James Owen Dorsey?

James Owen Dorsey was an American ethnologist, linguist, and Episcopalian missionary in the Dakota Territory, who contributed to the description of the Ponca, Omaha, and other southern Siouan languages. He worked for the Bureau of American Ethnology of the Smithsonian Institution from 1880-1895, when he died young of typhoid fever. He became known as the expert on languages and culture of southern Siouan peoples, although he also studied tribes of the Southwest and Northwest.

Dorsey also collected much material on beliefs and institutions, although most of his manuscripts have not been published. Some of the many stories he collected from the Ponca and Osage have been published, and are being used in an Omaha-language curriculum project at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


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Oct 31, 1848
  • United States of America
Feb 4, 1895
Washington, D.C.

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