- The system of tens generally was used by Indians in counting. The
white man call this the decimal system. The Indians called it the
finger and hand count.
In the Indian sign language, in counting
from one to ten the usual way was to hold the closed right hand in front.
For one the little finger was extended; two, the third finger; three,
the second, four, the index; five the thumb. To continue to ten the
left hand was brought up. The thumb extended for six; the index finger
for seven, and so on. The little finger of the left hand indicated
For twenty, both hands were brought up
and the fingers and thumbs extended twice. For twenty five the fingers
of both hands were extended twice and those of one hand raised once, and
so on. Among some tribes, such as the Eskimo and Tlingit, twenty
was counted on the hands and feet - or on all fingers and toes - "the complete
man," as they said. The Zuñi counted the second ten back on
Many Indians could count to one thousand,
but few could imagine a greater number than this. Most of them could
not imagine numbers greater than two or three hundred. The Cherokee
called one thousand the "great one hundred." Among the Iroquois it
was "ten hand clasps," that is ten hundreds. The Kiowa called it
"the whole hand hundred."
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