The Indian Sign Language corrects the sentimental and brutal stereotypes of Indians that led to much understanding. It is a monument to the desire for understanding between radically different peoples.
In 1876 and 1877, Captain W. P. Clark commanded a detachment of Indian scouts — including Pawnees, Shoshones, Arapahoes, Cheyennes, Crows, and Siuox — who conversed in sign language. They made requests, relayed information, and told stories with their hands, communicating in a language indispensable for quick understanding between Indians of different tribes. The scouts patiently taught Clark the sign system, which he patiently recorded in this book.
Originally written in 1884 for use by the United States Army, The Indian Sign Language is far more than a grammar book or curiosity. Clark worked closely with the Indians wo taught him the language, and his respect for them and their way of thinking informs every page.
Clark believed that sign language could assist him “to think like the Indians,” which he considered essential for a conscientious officer.
ISBN – 978-0-8032-6309-3
University of Nebraska Press, 1982