Monday, June 10, 2024 – America’s first universal language

At a point in history, the various tribes in the Plains region developed a shared universal language. But it 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. It 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.


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