Book Reviews of Indian Talk.

1. "Alphabetically, 246 words, phrases, and counting methods of 'Indian Sign Language' are photographically depicted. Sign language was primarily a mechanism by which Plains groups could conduct trade activities. The classic works on the subject date from the 1800s and early 1900s. The last fairly complete work, by William Tomkins (just reissued in its 5th edition by Dover Publications) is illustrated with drawings instead of photographs. Consequently, if you are interested in the subject, this latest publication is the best current source; movie fans will readily recognize the author as a principle character from A Man Named Horse." (Southwestern Lore, March 1971)

2. "The North American continent was once populated by hundreds of Indian tribes who all spoke different languages. An incredible sign language developed whereby Indians who spoke different tongues were able to effectively communicate without saying a word. Indian sign language is not the same as the sign language for the deaf, although there are similarities. Indian sign language is easily learned and, with regular practice, mastered. Its ease of comprehension is due to the fact that the symbols used are very visual and the most logical way of expressing a given concept--even abstract concepts such as time--is used.

"Sign language deals with ideas rather than individual words. To merely know a lot of signs, however, does not make one a proficient sign communicator; each sign or idea unit must be used in proper sequence and context, and with proper accent and delivery. The sign for 'question' may mean why, where, what, who, how many, or can you, will you, depending on the context in which it is used. The sign for 'eat' may mean 'to eat' or 'food.' The sign for 'possession' is used for all concepts having to do with possession and ownership. When you point your thumb at your breast, you say 'me.' When you point your index finger at the person addressed, you say 'you.' Adding the sign for possession means 'your' or 'yours.' When you beckon with your finger you are saying 'come.' You indicate 'go' by waving your hand outwards.

"When you point upward with your index finger, you say 'up,' and pointing downward means 'down.' By elevating your flat right hand, you say 'high'; by lowering the flat hand you say 'low.' A nod of the head is universally recognized as 'yes' and a shake as 'no.' In Indian sign, if you nod the right index finger beside the head, you say 'yes,' and if you turn your right hand over, from waist height, you say 'no.' To incline the head toward the palms of both hands means 'to sleep.' To pass the flat hand slightly outward from your chin means 'talk' or 'speak.' When you pass your partly closed right hand downward past the mouth, you say 'eat' or 'food.' Cupping your right hand behind your right ear means 'listen.'

"There are two highly recommended books on the subject which I suggest if you wish to learn more. They are Indian Sign Language, by William Tomkins (Dover Books), and Indian Talk, by Iron Eyes Cody (Naturegraph). Possibly the greatest value that I have derived from my study of Indian sign is that I have begun to see real communication as the act of verbally (or otherwise) portraying pictures. If I can visualize my spoken words as pictures, rather than groups of word clusters, and if the receiver sees the pictures I transmitted, then I become a more effective communicator." (Christopher Nyerges, Star-News, March 18, 1983)