Are they able to understand each other using gestures and symbols only? despite of their differences in language?

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    Why would you think this might be the case?
    – curiousdannii
    Nov 28, 2018 at 23:31
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    @curiousdannii: The phenomenon was noted by the European colonialists arriving in North America Nov 29, 2018 at 9:49
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    @jknappen Plains Indian Sign Language did have a really wide range (bigger than I realised) but never across the whole of the Americas of course.
    – curiousdannii
    Nov 29, 2018 at 10:21
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    @MarkBeadles I think this was originally meant, it is well-known from popular literature that Native Americans used a system of signing, but few people will know that this system is called Plains Indian Sign Language. Nov 29, 2018 at 13:13
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    @jknappen Fair enough; I also believe that most people aren't aware of the linguistic and cultural diversity of indigenous Americans, and think it possible there could be something that they "all" had in common. Nov 29, 2018 at 13:15

2 Answers 2


Even assuming you're only talking about North America, the answer is no. There are about 300 indigenous languages reliably attested (depending how you count them), some of which are related but many of which aren't (to the limits of our evidence). There's never been a common language, spoken or signed, that was understood by all of them.

There were/are sign languages used by certain groups; user6726 mentions Plains Sign Language, which is the most widespread to my knowledge. But nowadays, Native Americans with different mother tongues would probably use English or Spanish to communicate with each other; through colonization and forced assimilation, those languages are more widespread than any sign language has ever been.


You can read about it, or one, here. Plains Indian Sign language is purportedly still known by about 75 people predominantly among the Crow, Cheyenne, and Arapaho, and was employed roughly in the Great Plains area of North America.

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