VIDEOS

Indian Sign Language Council of 1930

The following clips are from a gathering of Native American chiefs, medicine men, and elders representing more than a dozen different nations. The films were produced by General Hugh L. Scott and the U.S. Department of the Interior by an Act of Congress, for the purpose of preserving and recording Indian Sign Language in a variety of discourse styles. The meeting took place in September of 1930 in Browning, Montana, and is the largest known gathering of high-ranking representatives from Indian Nations to be filmed up until then. This footage comes courtesy of the National Archives, and was digitized with support from the Office of the Chancellor at the University of Tennessee.

Bitter Root Jim, Flathead, presents a classic, his renowned bear story. Mountain Chief, Piegan, aged and blind, tells a buffalo story of long ago.
Strange Owl, Cheyenne, contributes an anecdote. The formal features of the council over, the visitors relax.
General Scott opens the council with a brief statement of its object. Tom White Horse, Arapahoe, tells of things "heard but not seen" by radio.
Richard Sanderville

Richard Sanderville, a PISL signer from the Blackfeet Nation who interpreted off-screen at the Indian Sign Language Council (see above), continued to contribute to the preservation and study of PISL at the Smithsonian Institution by recording anecdotes and the beginnings of a film dictionary. Here are two excerpts from the resulting films.

 
Story of the Buffalo Lodge Exchange   Marriage Story
This website was developed by Jeffrey Davis with support from a 2006-2007 research fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities and National Science Foundation for Documenting Endangered Languages (DEL). Hand talk: Sign Language among American Indian Nations is copyright Jeffrey Davis.