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Indian Sign Language in Modern Day

Lauren Huttner

We think of sign language always being used for the hearing impaired. That is wrong however. Many other people use it including the Indians. Indian sign language is a treasured telling. It helped the Indians communicate.

    I attended a lecture at the Tattered Cover about Indian Sign Language used during the Great Plains Fur Trade. The lecture was associated with Tesoro Cultural Center. Tesoro was providing a lecture series. Every Sunday at eleven for a few more weeks, you can listen to lectures about Colorado history. Although, not many kids come, Tesoro is good at their lectures. Also, there aren’t many people, so it is easier to listen.

    The person who told the lecture, Sam Piscotta, taught me very interesting things. He volunteered to do this lecture. Although he had no back round, Sam worked hard at his lecture. He loves history. The Indians cultural back round persuaded him to do the lecture. Sam is retired and lives in Pueblo.

    Now about the lecture! Indian sign language is different then American sign language. Indian signs are done in front of the heart (mostly) or sometimes in front of  the face. There were over 80 languistic families back then.

    Indian sign language is considered to be pre-Columbian, meaning before Columbus discovered America. Every word has it’s own sign. Sometimes, words are the same sign however mean different .  However some words have a lot of signs, like mouse.

    It is easy to learn sign language! Just start with signs close to each other. For example, my little brother smells bad is a simple one because the signs are near each other. If you learn 50-60 signs, you can easily start a conversation.

    When the Great Plains fur trade started, English men were paid a lot more if they new sign language. Why? Well, the only way of communication with the Indians was sign language. If English men new it, the Indians could trade more.

    If you would like to learn more, Sam Piscotta recommends a few books. One is “Indian Sign Language” by William Tomkins. Sam recommends for adults that you should have a kid by you because kids learn it a lot faster. Otherwise be sure to look out for more lectures by Tesoro.