Indian Communication: Sign Language

"Indian Communication: Sign Language of the North American Indian"
Filmed by Rollin Lester Dixon during the Wanamaker Historical Expeditions, 1908-1913.

In 1908, 1909, and 1913, Rodman Wanamaker financed expeditions to study North American Indians. The expeditions were led by Joseph Kossuth Dixon, and filmed by his son Rollin Lester Dixon. "In undertaking these expeditions to the North American Indian," Wanamaker wrote in The Vanishing Race in 1913, "the sole desire has been to perpetuate the life story of the first Americans and to strengthen in their hearts the feeling of allegiance and friendship for their country. For this purpose two expeditions were sent forth to gather historic data and make picture records of their manners, customs, their sports and games, their warfare, religion and the country in which they live." The film opens with the convocation of Sioux chiefs in the Little Bighorn Valley, Montana. Mountain Chief, a Blackfoot, tells the story of the battle of Hope-Up in sign language to a group of Sioux. In the next sequences, Buffalo Bill Cody and Chief Iron Tail communicate using sign language, and smoke signals made with blankets are demonstrated. Chief Two Moons, leader of the Cheyennes against Custer, also uses sign language to tell the story of Custer's defeat. Most of the film has been lost through deterioration.