Native American Sign Language Essay

1423 words - 6 pages

Native American Sign Language
Very basic, elementary and logical characteristics made the Native American Sign Language the world's most easily learned language. It was America's first and only universal language. The necessity for intercommunication between Indian tribes having different vocal speech developed gesture speech or sign language (Clark; pg. 11). Although there is no record or era dating the use of sign language, American Indian people have communicated with Indian Sign Language for thousands of years. The signs illustrated ideas and the language conveyed a message. Many of the simplistic nonverbal gestures that were used by the Indian tribes across the United States are still in use around the world today.
Most of the credit for the development and implementation of Native American Sign Language has been given to the Plains Indians. However, it is believed that the Comanche tribe of Texas actually learned signing in Mexico and much of this information migrated north into the United States (Tomkins). For centuries, most of the Native Americans had been scattered throughout North America, living in the areas where early European explorers and settlers had found them. By the time Christopher Columbus brought word of the "new world" to Europe, the Indian population in North America was well established.
There is no doubt that gesture (sign) language has had immense use and value in the past. It was a learned skill that was once taught to children before they could even speak. Children less than 3 years of age could communicate efficiently with not only adult members of their own tribe and language, but literally any other Indian they came in contact with, no matter what tribe they came from (Comanche Lodge). With the introduction of modern education, one has to ponder whether the usefulness of sign language is now gone. Many Indians with college and university training can speak better English than they can sign talk.
Native American Sign Language was the first universal language produced by people. Every record of the landing of Columbus on North American soil, tells of how he and his group communicated with the Indians using sign language. The same is also true of other explorers that came to this country. Lewis and Clark communicated successfully with the tribes of the west during their exploration efforts. In the 17th century, the language of sign was so well understood throughout the western part of the country that there was little difficulty in conversations being carried on between tribes, traders, and mountain men. They could easily communicate with one another, even though neither understood a word of the other's dialect at that time.
Basic Native American sign language is easy to learn; it is much easier to learn Indian signing than it is to learn a spoken language. The combination of meaning and movement in signing, allows you to learn the meaning of a gesture, while you visualize the movement....

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