Item #6065 English–Dakota Vocabulary. Wa icun Iapi Ieska Wowapi. John P. Williamson.

English–Dakota Vocabulary. Wa icun Iapi Ieska Wowapi.

Santee Agency, Nebraska: Edward R. Pond, 1871. 7½” x 4½”. Quarter leather over marbled boards with decorative purple endpapers. Pp. 137. Good: both boards separated from text block but firmly held by backstrip and still attached; internally very good with lightly toned leaves and the occasional soil spot.

This is an early English-Dakota language vocabulary, published on a Sioux reservation in Santee, Nebraska, and written by a second-generation missionary who dedicated nearly his entire life to working with the Dakota tribe.

In June of 1835, the author's father, Thomas, helped establish a site for Christian missionary work to the Dakota people at Lac qui Parle, Minnesota. He was a doctor as well as a clergyman and served as a physician to the Dakota as well as for white patients. With three other missionaries, he also created the first written alphabet and grammar of the Dakota language, published by the Smithsonian Institution in 1852. Thomas' son, John, was born on the mission four months after Thomas' arrival, and grew up speaking Dakota.

John P. Williamson followed in his father's footsteps and earned his degree from Lane Theological Seminary in Ohio in 1860. He served as a missionary to the Dakota tribe, working at a number of Sioux sites and preaching in their language, from 1860 to 1898. He and the book's publisher, fellow missionary Edward Pond, played a large role in the establishment of the Santee Agency (established in 1866) and the Santee Normal Training School, founded in 1870 by the Reverend Alfred L. Riggs.

The primary purpose of the Santee Normal Training School was to provide training and education to members of the Santee Sioux tribe who had been exiled from their ancestral home in Minnesota following the Sioux uprising of 1862. The school became a leader in the education of Native Americans, drawing students from other reservations and teaching courses in a variety of vocational fields as well as the arts and sciences. Pupils were encouraged to become teachers and pastors in their native languages to support further assimilation among tribes.

An introduction to this book explained that “This vocabulary has been compiled as a text book for Indian student [sic] desiring a knowledge of the English language.” It then provided a few pages of useful information to native English-speakers “who wish to study the Dakota language,” including a pronunciation guide, information about accenting, the composition of sentences, and dialects. It was noted that this book was written in the Santee dialect of the Dakota language; some of the differences between this and other dialects were also laid out in the text.

John Williamson authored several other books and articles in Dakota and English, many of which have gone through multiple printings. This Vocabulary may have also functioned as a predecessor to Williamson's An English-Dakota school dictionary. Wa'sicun qu dakota ieska wowapi (with 8 editions published between 1871 and 1886), and/or An English-Dakota Dictionary (with 19 editions published between 1902 and 1992). He also wrote Dakota odowan, a book of Dakota hymns, with as few as 13 (but possibly closer to 40) editions published, and an illustrated speller, Oowa wowapi: Dakota iapi en, published by the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions in 1865. Books and articles have been written about the author as well, including John P. Williamson: A Brother to the Sioux by Winifred W. Barton.

OCLC locates approximately 22 copies over several entries and the book has not been seen at auction since the 1999 Siebert sale.

A scarce Native American language vocabulary created in the spirit of education and assimilation, and printed on a reservation by a missionary who devoted his career to educating Native Americans. Good. Item #6065

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Price: $7,500.00

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