John R. Swanton

John R. Swanton

John Reed Swanton (19 February 18732 May, 1958) was an American anthropologist who worked with Native American peoples throughout the United States.

Born in Gardiner, Maine, Swanton's work in the fields of ethnology and ethnohistory is well recognized. He is particularly noted for his work with indigenous peoples of the Southeast and Pacific Northwest. He attended Harvard University from which he earned a Masters in 1897 and a doctorate in 1900. His mentor was the famous Franz Boas, whose influence on Swanton is clear. Following his education, he did fieldwork in the Northwest, and then began working for the Bureau of American Ethnology, where he remained employed for almost 40 years.

In his early career in the Northwest, he mostly worked with the Tlingit and Haida. He produced two extensive compilations of Haida stories and myths, and transcribed many of them in Haida. These transcriptions have served as the basis for Robert Bringhurst's recent (1999) translation of the poetry of Haida mythtellers Skaay and Gandl. Swanton spent roughly a year with the Haida.

After that, Swanton studied Muskogean speaking peoples in Texas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma. He published extensively on the Creek people, Chickasaw, and Choctaw as well as recording information about many other less well-known groups, such as the Biloxi and Ofo. He argued in favor of including the Natchez language with the Muskogean language group. His works included partial dictionaries, studies of linguistic relationships, collections of native stories, and studies of social organization. He also worked with Earnest Gouge, a Creek who recorded a large number of traditional Creek stories at Swanton's request. These materials were never published by Swanton, but have recently been republished (

He also worked with the Caddo, and published briefly on the quipu system of the Inca.

He was president of the American Anthropological Association in 1932. He also served as editor of the American Anthropological Association's flagship journal, American Anthropologist in 1911 and from 1921-1923.

Swanton died in Newton, Massachusetts at the age of 85.

List of Works

*1905. Contributions to the Ethnology of the Haida. Publications of the Jesup North Pacific Expedition 5(1); American Museum of Natural History Memoirs 8(1). Leiden: E.J. Brill; New York: G.E. Stechert.
*1905. Haida Texts and Myths: Skidegate Dialect. Bureau of American Ethnology Bulletin 29. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office.
*1909. Tlingit Myths and Texts. Bureau of American Ethnology Bulletin 39. Smithsonian Institution; Washington, D.C.:Government Printing Office.
*1911. [ Indian Tribes of the Lower Mississippi Valley and Adjacent Coast of the Gulf of Mexico] . Bureau of American Ethnology Bulletin 43. Washington, D.C.:Government Printing Office.
*1918. An Early Account of the Choctaw Indians. American Anthropologist 5:51-72.
*1922. Early History of the Creek Indians and Their Neighbors. Bureau of American Ethnology Bulletin 73. Washington D.C.: Government Printing Office.
*1927. Religious Beliefs and Medical Practices of the Creek Indians. Forty-second Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology pg. 639-670. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office.
*1928. Social Organization and the Social Usages of the Indians of the Creek Confederacy. In Forty-Second Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology, 1924-1925, pg. 279-325. Washington, D.C. Government Printing Office.
*1929. Myths & Tales of the Southeastern Indians. Bureau of American Ethnology Bulletin 88, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office.
*1931. Modern Square Grounds of the Creek Indians. Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections, v. 85, no. 8., pg. 1-46 + plates.
*1931. Source Material for the Social and Ceremonial Life of the Choctaw Indians. Bureau of American Ethnology Bulletin 103. Washington, D.C.:Government Printing Office.
*1946. The Indians of the Southeastern United States. Bureau of American Ethnology Bulletin 137. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office.
*1952. The Indian Tribes of North America. Smithsonian Institution Bureau of American Ethnology Bulletin 145. Washington: Government Printing Office, available from Native American Documents Project,

With James Owen Dorsey:
*1912. A Dictionary of the Biloxi and Ofo Languages. Bureau of America Ethnology Bulletin 47. Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.:Government Printing Office.

Further reading

* Bringhurst, Robert (1999) "A Story as Sharp as a Knife: The Classical Haida Mythtellers and Their World." Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre.

External links

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