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The Plains Indian Sign Language

The video, “The Plains Indian Sign Language”, is created by Elisa Harkins, a Native American artist, and Nathan Young.

“A language of signs and gestures closely related to the Indian’s picture writing, by which different tribes of Plains Indians communicated with one another. It was similar in a way to the sign language of deaf-mutes, only Indians had no alphabet and could not spell out words, but made signs for things and ideas.

The sign language is said to have originated in the buffalo country when different tribes came together during a hunt and by signs and gestures indicated whether they were friendly or hostile. It spread throughout the Plains country and in time reached such a stage of perfection that it was easily understood by Indians of different tribes. Indians living close together, such as the Cheyenne and the Arapaho, did not trouble to learn each other’s language, but communicated by sign language” (Grant & Bjorklund, Concise encyclopedia of the American Indian, 2000, pp. 287-288).

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