Juan Dolores

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Juan Dolores
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BornJune 24, 1880
Near the Mexican-American border in Southern Arizona
DiedJuly 19, 1948
Tucson, Arizona
Burial placeVamori, Arizona
CitizenshipUnited States of America

Juan Dolores (June 24, 1884 – July 19, 1948), was a Tohono Oʼodham Indigenous peoples of the Americas of the Koló:di dialect, acting as one of the first linguists of the Oʼodham language. He is the first person to document traditional Tohono O'odham Fable and myths[1], and worked with A. L. Kroeber|Alfred L. Kroeber to document the first studies into the O'odham language's grammar, which would eventually be compiled and published alongside other documents in The Language of the Papago of Arizona by John Alden Mason.[2]

In addition to his contributions to research into O'odham grammar, he worked on his own notes for the University of California, Berkeley.

Early Life

Juan Dolores was born June 24, 1880 in the then Arizona Territory near the Mexico–United States border.[3][4] Early in his childhood, his father José Dolores moved the family to what was then called the Tohono Oʼodham Nation, Arizona so that he could be sent to a government school.[3] His mother's name is unknown. Juan was exposed to the Koló:di dialect of the O'odham language through family, the Spanish language through his mother, and English language in school.[4] After he spent time in that first government school, in circumstances named "a few painful years" by Madeleine Mathiot[3], Juan later relocated to New Mexico and then to Lawrence, Kansas. For college, he came to the Hampton University|Hampton Institute in Hampton, Virginia in October, 1898 when he was 18, graduating on December 9, 1901 at the age of 21. The course involved summer farm work, where they were sent east to New England and other nearby states.[3][4] Juan stayed at the Institute an additional year for the post-graduate business course in 1902.[5]

After finishing college, Juan moved back west, working as a construction worker across the Western United States.

Alfred L. Kroeber and John A. Mason

Juan Dolores first met with A. L. Kroeber around 1909 in San Francisco, California, where he was invited to act as an informant into the O'odham language. According to Kroeber himself, he "agreed cheerfully, became increasingly interested, and proved to be a careful analyst".[2] Kroeber spent close to a month documenting the language himself until he started to become busy with work and suggested to Juan that he be taught to write O'odham himself. After being taught, he went on to write various studies into the O'odham language, alongside acting as Guard in the Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology in the University of California, Berkeley. Later in 1918 to 1919, he became a "Research Fellow" for the university, continuing to work in documentation.[2] In the fall of 1919, a Elsie Clews Parsons Parsons gave John Alden Mason, a linguist knowledgeable of the Tepecano language, the opportunity to meet Dolores among other Tohono O'odham of that area, where Juan himself would aid in his project The Language of the Papago of Arizona.[2][3][4]

Pay was something that swayed Juan's position from the University, and so, from 1912-1936, he would often bounce between his contract work and his study.[2][3][4] In 1936, he was sent to Chicago, Illinois to participate in a Works Progress Administration study into Mexican labor under the sponsorship of W. Lloyd Warner.[3] During most of 1937, he spent time back in Arizona with his family and other O'odham before returning permanently to Berkeley as Preparator to the Museum of Anthropology later that year.[3][4]

Retirement and Death

Dolores continued his time in the Museum of Anthropology until he retired on June 30, 1948 due to age. Years prior to his death, he had sustained "...physical shocks-- a bad fall from a scaffold, a ruptured appendix, a second concussion from a robbery hold-up and beating."[4] Juan returned to Tucson, Arizona to live with his grandnieces until his death in July 19, 1948, barely 20 days into retirement.[3][4]

Body of Works

Juan's main work was in documenting the O'odham language. To this end, he worked on Papago Verb Stems, Papago Noun Stems, Papago Nicknames, and Notes on Papago Color Designations.[6] He also aided in John A. Mason's work The Language of the Papago of Arizona.[2]

The O'odham language, while a priority, was not the only area of culture he examined in his documents. Dolores worked in retranscription of earlier fables written by "Kurath". These fables included retellings of the Creation myth, the Ho'ok Story, and the children's story The Coyote and the Skunk. Aside from these, he also transcribed several oral stories directly, those being variations of the Creation myth, a variety of traditional songs, speeches, and autobiographies, including his own.[3] Information on any of these seem to be scarce today.


  1. Saxton, Dean. (September 1, 1973). Legends and lore of the Papago and Pima Indians. Saxton, Lucille,. Tucson, Arizona: University of Arizona Press. ISBN 0-8165-0420-2. OCLC 806296.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 Mason, John Alden (1950). The language of the Papago of Arizona. Museum monographs. Philadelphia: University Museum, University of Pennsylvania.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7 3.8 3.9 Dolores, Juan; Mathiot, Madeleine (1991). "The Reminiscences of Juan Dolores, an Early O'odham Linguist". Anthropological Linguistics. 33 (3): 232–315. ISSN 0003-5483.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6 4.7 Kroeber, A. L. (January 3, 1949). "Juan Dolores, 1880-1948". American Anthropologist. 51 (1): 96–97. doi:10.1525/aa.1949.51.1.02a00110. ISSN 0002-7294.
  5. Brudvig, John Larson (1994). "Hampton Normal & Agricultural Institute: American Indian Students (1878-1923)". Archived from the original on August 3, 2020.
  6. Dolores, Juan; Goddard, Pliny Earle; Kroeber, A. L; Mason, John Alden; Waterman, T. T; University of California, Berkeley (1911). University of California publications in American archaeology and ethnology. Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press. OCLC 1114742803.

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