Wampanoag Comes Home for Thanksgiving

Wampanoag is the language of the tribe that coexisted with the Pilgrims. Their language disappeared in the 19th century, but has recently been reconstructed by a Wampanoag woman, Annie “Little Doe” Baird, who won a MacArthur “genius” Award for her work.  A whole fascinating article can be found here. A film about  Baird and the Wampanoag reconstruction, We Still Live Here – Âs Nutayuneân, was shown on PBS in October, 2010. A short PBS news report about the project can be found here, and a DVD can  be purchased at this site.

The article concludes:

“Why should you care about Wampanoag, or any extinct language, for that matter? As Noam Chomsky says in the film, “A language is not just words. It’s a culture, a tradition, a unification of a community, a whole history that creates what a community is. It’s all embodied in a language.” But most importantly, as [Anne] Makepeace clearly shows in her film, a language can contribute significantly to mankind’s collective knowledge. That’s something for all of us, not just the Wampanoag, to be grateful for.”

Exercise: Discover what language(s) were spoken by native societies in your community. Which ones are still spoken, and which have disappeared.  Is the language(s) still studied somewhere, at MIT, for example? Are there relics of it on the Internet or in local libraries?

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