Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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DORSEY, James Owen, ethnologist, born in Baltimore, Maryland, 31 October 1848. He studied at the Central high school (now Baltimore City College) from 1862 till 1863, and then at the theological seminary of Virginia from 1867 till 1871. After being ordained a deacon, 18 April 1871, he was sent as a missionary of the Protestant Episcopal Church to the Ponka Indians in Dakota, where he remained for two years. From 1873 till 1878 he was engaged in parish work in Maryland. He was appointed ethnologist to the U. S. geological and geographical survey of the Rocky mountain region under Major J. W. Powell, and sent to the Omaha Indians in Nebraska, remaining there until 1880. Meanwhile, in 1879, he had been transferred to the bureau of ethnology in the Smithsonian institution, and in 1880 was also appointed Ponka interpreter to General Crook's commission. Prior to 1884 his investigations were confined to the languages, mythology, and sociology of tribes of the Dakotan or Siouan family, but since then he has made original researches for linguistic material among nineteen Oregon tribes of the Athapascan, Kusan, Takihnan, and Vaknon families.
He was made member of the council of the Anthropological society of Washington in 1884, and general secretary in 1885, vice president of the section on anthropology ef the American association for the advancement of science in 1885, honorable local correspondent of the Victoria institute of Great Britain in 1885, and member of the Italiana Regale Societa Didascalica in 1886, from which organization in 1886 he received a gold medal for his works on sociology. A record of his work will be found in the annual reports of the Smithsonian institution. He has published "Ponka A B C Wab5ru," a Ponka primer (1873); " Siouan Phonology" (1883); " Osage War Customs" (1884); "Kansas Mourning and War Customs" (1885); "Omaha Sociology" (1885); "Siouan Migrations" (1886) and "Indian Personal Names " (1886). Most of the foregoing were issued as pamphlets or reprints from government publications or transactions of societies.
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