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Dead medium: Native American Smoke Signals
From: (Bill Crawford)


Here's one. Smoke signals, referred to by some authors as

"native telegraphy."

Source(s): *Diary of a Visit of Inspection of the Texas Missions Made by Fray Gaspar Jose de Solis in the Year

translated by Margaret K. Kress with Introductory by

Mattie Austin Hatcher, Southwestern Historical Quarterly,

Vol. 35, No. 1, July, 1931.

A description of smoke signals among the Karankawa.

"They are very sagacious and cautious; and they send

messages by smoke signals, some signals calling them

together, others warning them to flee, others giving

notice of anything new. The proper Smoke for each being

given, as soon as one gets the message he passes it to

another; and he, in turn, gives it to those who follow;

and, in a very short time, whatever news there is has been

made known and forwarned in the province.

Source(s): Gatschet, Albert S.; "The Karankawa Indians," Papers of the Peabody Museum, Volume 1, 1888-1904.

More on the Karankawa.

"On clear days, generally at noon, they signalled

news by columns of Smoke from their camp Fires which were

started from small pits in the ground, every Indian having

a Fire in front of his lodge. The column of Smoke was

made to ascend in more than twenty different ways,

sometimes diverging or curling in spirals, sometimes

rising up in parallel lines. Some looked like the letters

V and Y others resembled spiral lines, or two parallel

zigzag lines moving upward, or twin columns standing close

to each other."

Source(s): Cremony, John C.; *Life Among the Apaches,* A. Roman and Company, San Francisco, 1868.

Smoke signals and the Apache.

"Smokes are of various kinds, each one significant of

a particular object. A sudden puff, rising into a

graceful column from the mountain heights, and almost as

suddenly losing its identity by dissolving into the

rarified atmosphere of those heights, simply indicates the

presence of a strange party upon the plains below; but if

those columns are rapidly multiplied and repeated, they

serve as a warning to show that the travelers are well

armed and numerous. If a steady Smoke is maintained for

some time, the object is to collect the scattered bands of

savages at some designated point, with hostile intentions,

should it be practicable. These signals are made at

night, in the same order, by the use of Fires, which being

kindled, are either alternately exposed and shrouded from

view, or suffered to burn steadily as occasion may


Bill Crawford (