Wednesday, February 29, 2012

American Indian Sign Language and Symbols for "Death"

American Indian Sign Language and Symbols for "Death"
Throw the forefinger from the perpendicular into a horizontal position toward the earth, with the back downward. (Long.)
Hold the left hand flat over the face, back outward, and pass with the similarly held right hand below the former, gently striking or touching it. (Wied.) The sign given (Oto and Missouri I) has no similarity in execution or conception with Wied's. (Boteler.) This sign may convey the idea of under or burial, quite differently executed from most others reported. Dr. McChesney conjectures this sign to be that of wonder or surprise at hearing of a death, but not a distinct sign for the latter.
The finger of the right hand passed to the left hand and then cast down. (Macgowan.)
Hold the left hand slightly arched, palm down, fingers pointing toward the right about fifteen inches before the breast, then place the extended index nearer the breast, pointing toward the left, pass it quickly forward underneath the left hand and in an upward curve to termination. (Arapaho II; Cheyenne V; Ponka II; Pani I.)
Place the palm of the hand at a short distance from the side of the head, then withdrawing it gently in an oblique downward direction and inclining the head and upper part of the body in the same direction. (Ojibwa II.) See page 353 for remarks upon this sign.
Hold both hands open, with palms over ears, extend fingers back on brain, close eyes, and incline body a little forward and to right or left very low, and remain motionless a short time, pronouncing the word Ke-nee-boo slowly. (Ojibwa IV.)
[pg 421]
Left hand flattened and held back upward, thumb inward in front of and a few inches from the breast. Right hand slightly clasped, forefinger more extended than the others, and passed suddenly under the left hand, the latter being at the same time gently moved toward the breast. (Cheyenne II.) "Gone under."
Both hands horizontal in front of body, backs outward, index of each hand alone extended, the right index is passed under the left with a downward, outward and then upward and inward curved motion at the same time that the left is moved inward toward the body two or three inches, the movements being ended on the same level as begun. "Upset, keeled over." For many deaths repeat the sign many times. The sign of (Cheyenne II) expresses "gone under," but is not used in the sense of death, dead, but going under a cover, as entering a lodge, under a table, &c. (Dakota I.)
Make the sign for Alive, viz.: The right hand, back upward, is to be at the height of the elbow and forward, the index extended and pointing forward, the other fingers closed, thumb against middle finger; then, while rotating the hand outward, move it to a position about four inches in front of the face, the back looking forward and the index pointing upward; then the sign for No. (Dakota IV.)
Another: Hold the left hand pointing toward the right, palm obliquely downward and backward, about a foot in front of the lower part of the chest, and pass the right hand pointing toward the left, palm downward, from behind forward underneath it. Or from an upright position in front of the face, back forward, index extended and other fingers closed, carry the right hand downward and forward underneath the left and about four inches beyond it, gradually turning the right hand until its back is upward and its index points toward the left. An Arapaho sign. Gone under or buried. (Dakota IV.)
Hold the left hand slightly bent with the palm down, before the breast, then pass the extended right hand, pointing toward the left, forward under and beyond the left. (Dakota VI, VII.)
Hold the right hand, flat, palm downward, before the body; then throw it over on its back to the right, making a curve of about fifteen inches. (Dakota VI; Hidatsa I; Arikara I.) The gesture of reversal in this and other instances may be compared with picture-writings in which the reversed character for the name or totem of a person signifies his death. One of these is given in Fig. 249, taken from Schoolcraft's Hist. Am. Tribes, I, p. 356, showing the cedar burial post or adjedatig of Wabojeeg, an Ojibwa war chief, who died on Lake Superior about 1793. He [pg 422]belonged to the deer clan of his tribe and the animal is drawn reversed on the post.
Ojibwa gravestone, including "dead"Fig. 249.
Extend right hand, palm down, hand curved. Turn the palm up in moving the hand down towards the earth. (Omaha I.)
The countenance is brought to a sleeping composure with the eyes closed. This countenance being gradually assumed, the head next falls toward either shoulder. The arms having been closed and crossed upon the chest with the hands in type positions (B B) are relaxed and drop simultaneously towards the ground, with the fall of the head. This attitude is maintained some seconds. (Oto and Missouri I.) "The bodily appearance at death."
Place the open hand, back upward, fingers a little drawn together, at the height of the breast, pointing forward; then move it slowly forward and downward, turning it over at the same time. (Iroquois I.) "To express 'gone into the earth, face upward.'"
The flat right hand is waved outward and downward toward the same side, the head being inclined in the same direction at the time, with eyes closed. (Wyandot I.)
Hold the left hand loosely extended about fifteen inches in front of the breast, palm down, then pass the index, pointing to the left, in a short curve downward, forward, and upward beneath the left palm. (Kaiowa I; Comanche III; Apache II; Wichita II.)
Dead. Shoshoni and BanakFig. 250.
Bring the left hand to the left breast, hand half clinched (H), then bring the right hand to the left with the thumb and forefinger in such a position as if you were going to take a bit of string from the fingers of the left hand, and pull the right hand off in a horizontal line as if you were stretching a string out, extend the hand to the full length of the arm from you and let the index finger point outward at the conclusion of the sign. (Comanche I.) "Soul going to happy hunting-grounds."
[pg 423]
The left hand is held slightly arched, palm down, nearly at arm's length before the breast; the right extended, flat, palm down, and pointing forward, is pushed from the top of the breast, straightforward, underneath, and beyond the left. (Shoshoni and Banak I.) Fig. 250.
Close both eyes, and after a moment throw the palm of the right hand from the face downward and outward toward the right side, the head being dropped in the same direction. (Ute I.)
Touch the breast with the extended and joined fingers of the right hand, then throw the hand, palm to the left, outward toward the right, leaning the head in that direction at the same time. (Apache I.)
Close the eyes with the tips of the index and second finger, respectively, then both hands are placed side by side, horizontally, palms downward, fingers extended and united; hands separated by slow horizontal movement to right and left. (Kutchin I.)
Palm of hand upward, then a wave-like motion toward the ground. (Zun̄i I.)
Deaf-mute natural signs:
Place the hand upon the cheek, and shut the eyes, and move the hand downward toward the ground. (Ballard.)
Let your head lie on the open hand with eyes shut. (Cross.)
Use the right shut hand as if to draw a screw down to fasten the lid to the coffin and keep the eyes upon the hand. (Hasenstab.)
Move the head toward the shoulder and then close the eyes. (Larson.)
Deaf mute signs:
The French deaf-mute conception is that of gently falling or sinking, the right index falling from the height of the right shoulder upon the left forefinger, toward which the head is inclined.
The deaf-mute sign commonly used in the United States is the same as Dakota VI; Hidatsa I; Arikara I; above. Italians with obvious conception, make the sign of the cros