About

Plains Indian Sign Language, PISL, developed as a way for Native Americans of different tribes to communicate with each other across the barrier of different languages.

Obvious and Simple

Many of the PISL signs are obvious, such as an index finger pointing upwards to indicate “Up”. Another, for “Come here”, would be familiar to any child about to be scolded by their mother. While in other cases rote memorization is necessary. And many of the signs are ambiguous enough to lend themselves to many interpretations. Author William Tomkins in his book, INDIAN SIGN LANGUAGE, gives generous examples of the fluid nature of these signs as they adapt to a situation. His example for “Private talk” would be a discrete way of signalling to someone that they’d like a private talk with them. These signs can be as modern in application as anyone would wish. As useful in this 21st Century as they were in the 14th Century.

The Tomkins book can be downloaded from the Download page at this site for free. It is a PDF file.

Site history

This site has been created in February 2020 for the purpose of serving as a resource for the curious as well as for those in need of a simple sign language to use when communicating across a room or through a window, and so on.

Site creator – John Lapham Jr. Shoreline, WA USA