In 1931, Crow medicine woman Pretty Shield delivered her oral autobiography to Frank Linderman, simultaneously through an interpreter of spoken Crow, and without translation to Linderman in Indian Sign Language. Pretty Shield’s and Linderman’s use of the sign language within this autobiography, coupled with Pretty Shield’s explanations of historical use of the sign language among precontact Crow people, suggests new views of various critical problems within the hybrid genre of American Indian autobiography, of which this text is one example. Pretty Shield’s husband, Goes Ahead, used the sign language to scout for General George Armstrong Custer at the 1876 Battle of the Little Bighorn; Pretty Shield’s account of the sign language in this battle additionally provides a rare and understudied interpretation of the Battle of the Little Bighorn, and of the larger American frontier histories in which sign talk played a significant role.

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