Narrative – Patricio’s – Sign Language

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This narrative was obtained in July, 1880, by Dr. Francis H. Atkins, acting assistant surgeon, United States Army, at South Fork, New Mexico, from Ti-pe-bes-tlel (Sheepskin-leggings), habitually called Patricio, an intelligent young Mescalero Apache. It gives an account of what is locally termed the “April Round-up,” which was the disarming and imprisoning by a cavalry command of the United States Army, of the small Apache subtribe to which the narrator belonged.

(1) Left hand on edge, curved, palm, forward, extended backward length of arm toward the West (far westward).

(2) Arm same, turned hand, tips down, and moved it from north to south (river).

(3) Dipped same hand several times above and beyond last line (beyond).

(4) Hand curved (Y, more flexed) and laid on its back on top of his foot (moccasins much curved up at toe); then drew hands up legs to near knee, and cut off with edges of hands (boot tops), (Warm Spring Apaches, who wear booted moccasins with turn-up toes.)

(5) Hands held before him, tips near together, fingers gathered (U); then alternately opened and gathered fingers of both hands (P to U, U to P), and thrusting them toward each other a few times (shot or killed many).

(6) Held hands six inches from side of head, thumbs and forefingers widely separated (Mexican, i.e., wears a broad hat).

(7) Held right hand on edge, palm toward him, threw it on its back forward and downward sharply toward earth (T on edge to X), (dead, so many dead).

(8) Put thumbs to temples and indexes forward, meeting in front, other fingers closed (soldiers, i.e., cap-visor).

(9) Repeated No. 5 and No. 7 (were also shot dead).

(10) Placed first and second fingers of right hand, others closed, astride of left index, held horizontally (horses).

(11) Held hands on edge and forward (T on edge forward), pushed them forward, waving vertically (marching, i.e., ran off with soldiers’ horses or others). N.B.—Using both hands indicates double ranks of troops marching also.

(12) Struck right fist across in front of chin from right to left sharply (bad).

(13) Repeated No. 4 (Warm Spring Apache).

(14) Moved fist, thumb to head, from center of forehead to right temple and a little backward (fool).

(15) Repeated No. 8 and No. 11 (soldiers riding in double column).

(16) Thrust right hand down over and beyond left, both palms down (W) (came here).

(17) Repeated No. 8 (soldier).

(18) Touched hair (hair).

(19) Touched tent (quite white).

(20) Touched top of shoulder (commissioned officer, i.e., shoulder-straps).

(21) Thrust both hands up high (high rank).

(22) Right forefinger to forehead; waved it about in front of face and rolled head about (primarily fool, but qualified in this case by the interpreter as no sabe much).

(23) Drew hands up his thighs and body and pointed to himself (Mescalero Indian).

(24) Approximated hands before him, palms down, with thumbs and indexes widely separated, as if inclosing a circle (captured, i.e., corralled, surrounded).

(25) Placed tips of hands together, wrists apart, held them erect (T, both hands inclined), (house; in this case the agency).

(26) Threw both hands, palms back, forward and downward, moving from knuckles (metacarpo-phalangeal joint) only, several times (issuing rations).

(27) Thrust two fingers (N) toward mouth and downward (food).

(28) Repeated No. 25 (house); outlined a hemispherical object (wik-i-up); repeated these several times, bringing the hands with emphasis several times down toward the earth (village permanently here).

(29) Repeated No. 25 several times and pointed to a neighboring hillside (village over there).

(30) Repeated Nos. 17 to 21, inclusive (General X).

(31) Thrust two fingers forward from his eyes (primarily I see; also I saw, or there were).

(32) Repeated No. 11 (toward said hillside), (troops went over there with General X).

(33) Repeated No. 4, adding, swept indexes around head and touched red paper on a tobacco wrapper (San Carlos Apaches, scouts especially distinguished by wearing a red fillet about the head); also added, drew indexes across each cheek from nose outward (were much painted).

(34) Repeated No. 24 and No. 23 (to capture the Mescalero Indians).

(35) Repeated No. 31 (there were).

(36) Repeated No. 33 (San Carlos scouts).

(37) Repeated No. 8 (and soldiers).

(38) Clasped his hands effusively before his breast (so many! i.e., a great many).

(39) Repeated No. 31 (I saw).

(40) Repeated No. 23 (my people).

(41) Brought fists together under chin, and hugged his arms close to his breast, with a shrinking motion of body (afraid).

(42) Struck off half of left index with right index (half, or a portion).

(43) Waved off laterally and upward with both hands briskly (fled).

(44) Projected circled right thumb and index to eastern horizon, thence to zenith (next morning, i.e., sunrise to noon).

(45) Repeated No. 23 (the Mescaleros).

(46) Held hands in position of aiming a gun—left oblique—(shoot).

(47) Waved right index briskly before right shoulder (no, did not; negation).

(48) Swept his hand from behind forward, palm up (Y) (the others came).

(49) Repeated No. 5 (and shot).

(50) Repeated No. 23 (the Mescaleros).

(51) Repeated No. 7 (many dead).

(52) Repeated No. 8 (soldiers).

(53) Repeated No. 10 (horse, mounted).

(54) Hand forward, palm down (W) moved forward and up and down (walking, i.e., infantry).

(55) Beckoned with right hand, two fingers curved (N horizontal and curved) (came).

(56) Repeated No. 11 (marching).

(57) Repeated No. 28 (to this camp, or village).

(58) Repeated No. 23 (with Mescaleros).

(59) Repeated No. 24 (as prisoners, surrounded).

(60) Repeated No. 33 (San Carlos scouts).

(61) Placed hands, spread out (R inverted), tips down, about waist (many cartridges).

(62) Repeated No. 46 (and guns).

(63) Repeated No. 5 (shot many).

(64) Repeated No. 4 (Warm Spring Apaches).

(65) Repeated No. 23 (and Mescaleros).

(66) Moved fist— – thumb to head – —across his forehead from right to left, and cast it toward earth over left shoulder (brave, i.e., the San Carlos scouts are brave).

Continuous Translation of the Above

Far westward beyond the Rio Grande are the Warm Spring Apaches, who killed many Mexicans and soldiers and stole their horses. They (the Warm Spring Apaches) are bad and fools.

Some cavalry came here under an aged officer of high rank, but of inferior intelligence, to capture the Mescalero Indians.

The Mescaleros wished to have their village permanently here by the agency, and to receive their rations, i.e., were peacefully inclined.

Our village was over there. I saw the general come with troops and San Carlos scouts to surround (or capture) the Mescalero Indians. There were a great many San Carlos scouts and soldiers.

I saw that my people were afraid, and half of them fled.

Next morning the Mescaleros did not shoot (were not hostile). The others came and killed many Mescaleros. The cavalry and infantry brought us (the Mescaleros) to this camp as prisoners.

The San Carlos scouts were well supplied with ammunition and guns, and shot many Warm Spring Indians and Mescaleros.

The San Carlos scouts are brave men.




MLA Source Citation:

Sign Language Among North American Indians Compared with that Among Other Peoples and Deaf-Mutes. 1881 AccessGenealogy.com. Web. 18 April 2014. http://www.accessgenealogy.com/native/narrative-patricios-sign-language.htm - Last updated on Jan 5th, 2014


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