MHA Language Apprentice Moves to Save Plains Indian Sign Language

Local News

One local man is taking on the challenge of Plains Indian Sign Language with the larger goal of incorporating it into schools on the reservation.

Once Elijah Dale Benson has learned it from Dr. Lanny Realbird, he hopes to create a curriculum for all the schools on the Fort Berthold reservation in North Dakota.

But his first step is to teach himself the language. Benson says Plains Indian Sign Language was used by Indigenous People throughout North America as a way to trade goods with people who spoke different languages.

His hope is that by helping students learn P-I-S-L it will give them the confidence to learn their tribal languages as well.

“The reason why the youth should learn how to sign the words because it is a lot easier to retain when you have an action to go with it. It is fun too,” said Benson.

In a few years, Elijah Dale wants students to be able to learn ‘hand talk’ right along with the tribal languages of the Three Affiliated Tribes.

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