Plains Indian Sign Language
Plains Indian Sign Language (PISL), also known as Hand Talk, Plains Sign Talk, and First Nation Sign Language, is a trade language, formerly trade pidgin, that was once the lingua franca across what is now central Canada, the central and western United States and northern Mexico, used among the various Plains Nations. It was also used for story-telling, oratory, various ceremonies, and by deaf people for ordinary daily use. It is thought by some to be a manually coded language or languages; however, there is not substantive evidence establishing a connection between any spoken language and Plains Sign Talk.
|Plains Native American Sign Language|
Plains Sign Talk
First Nation Sign Language
|Langues[dubious ] des signes des Indiens des Plaines (in the Canadian province of Québec)|
Lenguaje de signos Indio de las Llanuras (in Mexico)
|Native to||Canada, Mexico, USA|
|Region||Central Canada and United States including the Great Plains and the Rocky Mountains region; northern Mexico|
|Ethnicity||Various North American Indigenous Peoples|
|Unknown (no date)|
75 users total (no date)
|none; formerly a now unnamed, undeciphered script|
Official language in
|ELP||Plains Indian Sign Language|
The name 'Plains Sign Talk' is preferred in Canada, with 'Indian' being considered pejorative by many who are Indigenous. Hence, publications and reports on the language vary in naming conventions according to origin.
As a result of several factors, including the massive depopulation and the Americanization of Indigenous North Americans, the number of Plains Sign Talk speakers declined from European arrival onward. In 1885, it was estimated that there were over 110,000 "sign-talking Indians", including Blackfoot, Cheyenne, Sioux, Kiowa and Arapaho. By the 1960s, there remained a "very small percentage of this number". There are few Plains Sign Talk speakers in the 21st century.