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Native America Calling: America’s first universal language
Monday, June 10, 2024

America’s first universal language
At one point in history, the various tribes in the Plains region developed a shared universal language.

But the language didn’t rely on the spoken word. Plains Indian Sign Language (PISL), or Hand Talk, was a complex means of communication that spread over a large swatch of North America.

PISL was a way for deaf people to communicate before the invention of American Sign Language (ASL). Colonial intrusion and assimilation policies caused the number of PISL practitioners to drop off drastically.

Now, a handful of PISL speakers are trying to revitalize this unique language.

Lanny Real Bird: Hand Talking

Guests on Native America Calling
Dr. Lanny Real Bird (Apsáalooke), educator, consultant, and Native language advocate

Floyd Favel (Plains Cree from Poundmaker Cree Nation), theater artist, educator, knowledge keeper, and writer

Marvin Weatherwax Sr. (Blackfeet), language and history educator at Blackfeet Community College

native america calling
Native America Calling
Listen to Native America Calling every weekday at 1pm Eastern.
Alternate Links: Native Voice One | NAC