Hugh Lenox Scott, who would one day serve as chief of staff of the
U.S. Army, spent a portion of his early career at Fort Sill, in
Indian and, later, Oklahoma Territory. There, from 1891 to 1897, he
commanded Troop L, 7th Cavalry, an all-Indian unit. From members of
this unit, in particular a Kiowa soldier named Iseeo, Scott
collected three volumes of information on American Indian life and
culture - a body of ethnographic material conveyed through Plains
Indian Sign Language (in which Scott was highly accomplished) and
recorded in handwritten English. This remarkable resource - the
largest of its kind before the late twentieth century - appears
here in full for the first time, put into context by noted scholar
William C. Meadows. The Scott ledgers contain an array of
historical, linguistic, and ethnographic data - a wealth of
primary-source material on Southern Plains Indian people. Meadows
describes Plains Indian Sign Language, its origins and history, and
its significance to anthropologists. He also sketches the lives of
Scott and Iseeo, explaining how they met, how Scott learned the
language, and how their working relationship developed and served
them both. The ledgers, which follow, recount a variety of specific
Plains Indian customs, from naming practices to eagle catching.
Scott also recorded his informants' explanations of the signs, as
well as a multitude of myths and stories. On his fellow officers'
indifference to the sign language, Lieutenant Scott remarked: ""I
have often marveled at this apathy concerning such a valuable
instrument, by which communication could be held with every tribe
on the plains of the buffalo, using only one language."" Here, with
extensive background information, Meadows's incisive analysis, and
the complete contents of Scott's Fort Sill ledgers, this ""valuable
instrument"" is finally and fully accessible to scholars and
general readers interested in the history and culture of Plains
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