Hand Talk refers to Plains Indian Sign Language (PISL) that historically served various social and discourse functions within and between numerous American Indian communities of the Great Plains and other cultural groups bordering this geographic area. Classified in the Sign Language family, PISL is distinct from American Sign Language (ASL) that is used in Deaf communities of the US and Canada. The use of PISL has dramatically declined from its widespread use as a lingua franca in previous times. Although PISL is an endangered language, it has not vanished. Our project is documenting that PISL is still being learned and used today within some native groups in traditional storytelling, rituals, and conversational narratives by both deaf and hearing American Indians among the Northern Cheyenne, Blackfeet, Crow, and Assiniboine/Nakota.

4 responses to “About

  1. Kimberley Shaw

    More power to your revised website, and your efforts to revive PISL! The library I work for, I am delighted to say, has added your book to its collections. I am a hard-of-hearing speaker of ASL whose family has some Wabanaki roots, and I hope myself to learn some PISL.
    I just watched the movie “Thunderheart” directed by Michael Apted, and notice that there’s one signed phrase that pops up there. Does anyone at “pislresearch” know what this phrase is / has spotted it in this film? I have the William Tomkins dictionary published by Dover, but have seemed to have only found one of the two signs in this phrase, the word “good”.
    All the best to you,
    Kimberley Shaw
    Roslindale MA

    • Laszlo Nagy

      If the two signs are those in this clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mdMceX7au7c&list=TLaX4QM6_ajD8 , than the whole must means: /yes , good/, meaning something like ” Sure, it’s all right.” or “Yes, everything is all right.”

    • This is amazing I have only just seen this weistbe so I don’t know what its all about. What I do know is that I am starting a bakery and as I was searching for a usable domain I found this Blog. I have been teaching myself ASL on and off for the past year or so. I love the language and would love to learn more about deaf colture. I recently drew a picture about all the things I wanted for myself in the next year, Solid meditation, Vegan lifestyle, my own business (just for something to break up my day) and ASL. Two weeks ago a deaf woman came to my door and we talked a lot. It was my first asl conversation. She must have thought I was crazy because I was So excited to chat with her in her language. My broken ASL gave us a nice conversation.. She told me to become an ASL interpreter and take the training at a local College. But I have two kids and no money. Anyway I asked her if she knew of anyone who would be willing to teach and trade, she didnt. This popped up and its just so amazing to see that the universe keeps pointing me to ASL. Im teaching my two beautiful daughters and am going to look into these programs. Thanks so much for posting!

  2. Kimberly Tagle

    I’m really digging this website. I’m enjoying learning about PISL because its not a langauge I have really looked into. I’m curious though, if one wanted to get involved in learning PISL and getting involved with the American Indian Deaf Community, what would you have to do? I am currently going to Lamar University in Texas for my bachelors in Interpreting and ASL. I am however interested in LSM and Indian Sign language. If there are any connections to be made, please let me know!

    Thank you,
    Kimberly Ann Tagle

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