Tribal Signs – Sihasapa to Wyandot – Sign Language

Search Fold3 for your
Native American Records

Sihasapa, See under Dakota.


Sioux, See Dakota.



Right hand hollowed, lifted to mouth, and describing waving line gradually descending from right to left; left hand describing mountainous outline, one peak rising above the other. (Kutchin I.)” Mountain-river-men.”


“They who live on mountains” have a complicated sign which denotes “living in mountains,” and is composed of the signs Sit and Mountain. (Burton.)

Rub the back of the extended flat left hand with the extended fingers of the right, then touch some black object. Represents black skin. Although the same sign is generally used to signify negro, an addition is sometimes made as follows: place the index and second fingers to the hair on the right side of the head, and rub them against each other to signify curly hair. This addition is only made when the connection would cause a confusion between the “black skin” Indian (Ute) and negro. (Arapaho II; Cheyenne V.)

Left hand horizontal, flat, palm downward, and with the fingers of the right hand brush the other toward the wrist. (Dakota III.)

Place the flat and extended left hand at the height of the elbow before the body, pointing to the front and right, palm toward the ground; then pass the palmar surface of the flat and extended fingers of the right hand over the back of the left from near the wrist toward the tips of the fingers. (Kaiowa I; Comanche III; Apache II; Wichita II.) “Those who use sinew for sewing, and for strengthening the bow.”

Indicate the color black, then separate the thumbs and forefingers of both hands as far as possible, leaving the remaining fingers closed, and pass upward over the lower part of the legs. (Shoshoni and Banak I.) “Black or dark leggings.”

Wasaji, See Osage.



Indicate a circle over the upper portion of the right cheek, with the index or several fingers of the right hand. The statement of the Indian authorities for the above is that years ago the Wichita women painted spiral lines on the breasts, starting at the nipple and extending several inches from it; but after an increase in modesty or a change in the upper garment, by which the breast ceased to be exposed, the cheek has been adopted as the locality for the sign. (Creel; Kaiowa I; Comanche III; Apache II; Wichita II.)

Extend the fingers and thumb of the right hand, semi-closed, and bring the hand toward the face nearly touching it, repeating this several times as if going through the motion of tattooing. The Comanches call the Wichitas “Painted Faces”; Caddos call them “Tattooed Faces,” both tribes using the same sign. (Comanche I.)


Pass the flat right hand from the top of the forehead backward over the head and downward and backward as far as the length of the arm. (Wyandot I.) “From the manner of wearing the hair.”

MLA Source Citation:

Sign Language Among North American Indians Compared with that Among Other Peoples and Deaf-Mutes. 1881 Web. 28 January 2015. - Last updated on Jan 5th, 2014

Topics: , ,

Contribute to the Conversation!

Our "rules" are simple. Keep the conversation on subject and mind your manners! If this is your first time posting, we do moderate comments before we let them appear... so give us a while to get to them. Once we get to know you here, we'll remove that requirement.

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Page Contents

Newsletter Signup

We currently provide two newsletters. Why not take both for a run?

Genealogy Update: We send out this newsletter whenever we feature a new, or significantly updated, collection or database on our website.

Circle of Nations: We send out this newsletter whenever we feature a new (or significantly updated) Native American collection or database on our website.

Once you've clicked on the Subscribe button above you'll receive an email from us requesting confirmation. You must confirm the email before you will be able to receive any newsletter.

Connect With Us!

Pin It on Pinterest


Share This

Share this post with your friends!