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James Mooney (1861-1921) was an American ethnographer who lived for several years among the Cherokee. He did major studies of Southeastern Indians, as well as those on the Great Plainsmarker. His most notable works were his ethnographic studies of the Ghost Dance, a widespread religious movement among various Native American culture groups. It gave hope for transcendence and victory over the US soldiers.


James Mooney was born in 1861 in Richmondmarker, Indianamarker. His formal education was limited to the public schools of the city. He became a self-taught expert on American tribes by his own studies and his careful observation during long residences with different groups.

In 1885 he started working with the Bureau of American Ethnology at Washington, D.C.marker under John Wesley Powell. He compiled a list of tribes which contained 3,000 names. It ended after the US Army's 1890 massacre of Lakota people at Wounded Knee, South Dakotamarker. Mooney was recognized as a national expert on the American Indian.

Mooney's obituary is available on JSTOR in American Anthropologist 24, #2 (New Series), pp. 209-214.

His son was the American writer Paul Mooney.

Works written by James Mooney

  • Myths of the Cherokees (1888)
  • Sacred Formulas of the Cherokees (1891)
  • Siouan Tribes of the East (1894)
  • The Ghost Dance Religion and the Sioux Outreak of 1890, Part 2 of 14th Annual Report, Bureau of Ethnology, pp. 641-1136, Washington GPO 1896.
  • The Messiah Religion and the Ghost Dance; Calendar History of the Kiowa Indians (1898) (1979 reprint: )
  • James Mooney's History, Myths, and Sacred Formulas of the Cherokees James Mooney, Introduction by George Ellison


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