Our previous post was about people using Plains Indian Sign Language after learning it from books and videos. At least one of these signers, Ron Garitson, was considered fluent by modern native Cheyenne PISL signers at the 2010 Plains Indian Sign Language Conference. Ron had practiced his PISL with modern native Crow signers, native Assiniboine signers, and others for decades, so he is by no means an amateur. However, a new article from Ted Stillwell – an old radio host – explains when an amateur incorrectly uses or translates a Native sign language they ofter butcher names and tales. For instance, a French missionary mistranslated at least two tribal names:
• Upper-Forest Sitters as Great Osage or Big Osage
• Down-Below People as Little Osage
In other words, the sign language size indicators BIG and LITTLE were confused with the slightly similar yet not identical proximity indicators UPPER and LOWER.
According to a Quapaw chief, these mistranslation caused a political rift to form between these two Osage bands, which led the lower band to break off and become known as the Quapaw, because that band resented their new association with small stature.