Omaha Colloquy & Brulé Dakota Colloquy – Sign Language

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Omaha Colloquy

The following is contributed by Rev. J. Owen Dorsey:

Question. From what quarter is the wind?

Raise the curved right hand, palm in, in front of the left shoulder. Draw in toward the body a little, then from the body several times in different directions.

Answer. From that quarter.

Hand as above; draw in towards the body once, and farther with emphasis, according to the direction of the wind.

Brulé Dakota Colloquy

The following signs, forming a question and answer, were obtained by Dr. W.J. Hoffman, from Ta-tan-ka Wa-kan (Medicine Bull), a Brulé Dakota chief who visited Washington during the winter of 1880-’81:

Question. We went to the department [of the interior], shook hands with the secretary and had a conversation with him, did you hear of it?

Fig. 315
Fig. 315

(1) Extend and separate the thumb and index, leaving the remaining fingers closed, place the ball of the thumb against the temple above the outer corner of the eye, and the index across the forehead, the tip resting on the left temple, then draw the index across to the right until its tip touches the thumb— – white man, Fig. 315; (2) Elevate the extended index before the shoulder, palm forward, pass it upward, as high as the head, and forming a short curve to the front, then downward again slightly to the front to before the breast and about fifteen inches from it— – chief; (3) Fingers of both hands extended and separated; then interlace them so that the tips of the fingers of one hand protrude beyond the backs of those of the opposing one; hold the hands in front of the breast, pointing upward, leaving the wrists about six inches apart – —lodge; (4) Place the left hand a short distance before the breast, palm down and slightly arched, fingers directed toward the right and front, then pass the flat and extended right hand forward, under and beyond the left, forming a downward curve, the right hand being as high as the left at the commencement and termination of the gesture— – enter, entered; (5) Clasp the hands before the body, left uppermost – —shook hands, friendly; (6) Place the flat right hand before the chin, palm up with fingers directed to the left, then pass the hand forward several times – —talk, talked to him; (7) Reverse this motion, beginning away from the body, drawing the hand edgewise toward the chin several times— – talked to me; (8) Separate the extended thumb and index as far as possible, leaving the remaining fingers closed, place the hand about six inches opposite the right ear, palm toward the head, then pass it in a curve forward and downward, terminating at the height of the elbow— – hear, heard; (9) then in a continuous movement direct the extended index at the individual addressed, the face expressing a look of inquiry – —you.


Wa-śi’-cun i-tan-can ti-el’ ti’-ma-hel unk-i’-pi na
(1) (2) (3) (4)



na’-pe-un-za-pi na ki-ci wo-un-gla-ka-pi kin
(5) (6,7)
hand we hold it,
take hold of
and to each other we talk  the thing
you hear it?

It will be observed that the interrogation point is placed under the last syllable, hu-o, the latter implying a question, though the gesture was not made to accompany it, the gestures for hear and you, with a look of inquiry, being deemed sufficient to express the desire on the part of the speaker.

Answer. Yes, I heard of it, but did not see it.

Fig. 316
Fig. 316

(1) Hold the naturally closed hand before the right side of the breast or shoulder, leaving the index and thumb loosely extended, then, as the hand is thrown downward and forward, bring the index against the inner side of the thumb—yes. (2) Repeat gesture No. 8— – heard, Fig. 316; (3) pass the extended index forward from the right eye— – saw; (4) then in a continuous motion extend all the fingers so as to place the flat hand edgewise, and pointing forward about twelve inches before the right side of the breast, and throw it outward and slightly downward— – no, not.


Ha-u na-wa’-ḣon tka wan-mla’-ke śni
(1) (2) (3) (4)
Yes, I heard (but) I saw it. not.

MLA Source Citation:

Sign Language Among North American Indians Compared with that Among Other Peoples and Deaf-Mutes. 1881 Web. 31 January 2015. - Last updated on Jan 5th, 2014

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