To mark the coming of Thanksgiving and the first interactions of the cultures of the English colonists and the native Wampanoags, the Woods Hole Public Library will be showing the film “We Still Live Here” about the revitalization of the Wampanoag language.
The documentary features Mashpee resident Jessie Little Doe who has almost single-handedly brought the language back to life. This is the first time a language with no native speakers has been revived in this country.
The Wampanoag’s ancestors ensured the survival of the Pilgrims in New England, and lived to regret it. Nevertheless, through resilience and courage they kept their identity alive and remained on their ancestral lands. Now a cultural revival by the Wampanoag of Southeastern Massachusetts is taking place.
The story begins in 1994 when Jessie Little Doe, an intrepid, 30-something Wampanoag social worker, began having recurring dreams: familiar-looking people from another time addressing her in an incomprehensible language. Jessie was perplexed and a little annoyed — why couldn’t they speak English? Later, she realized they were speaking Wampanoag, a language no one had used for more than a century.
These events sent her and members of the Aquinnah and Mashpee Wampanoag communities on an odyssey that would uncover hundreds of documents written in their ancestral language, lead Jessie to a earn herself a masters degree in linguistics at MIT, and result in something that had never been done before – bringing a language alive again in an American Indian community after many generations with no native speakers. With commitment, study groups, classes, and communitywide effort, many are approaching fluency. Jessie’s young daughter Mae is the first native speaker in more than a hundred years.
Anne Makepeace has been a writer, producer, and director of award-winning independent films for more than 20 years. This film “We Still Live Here – Âs Nutayuneân” won the Full Frame Inspiration Award and the Moving Mountains Prize at Telluride Mountain Film Festival. She has won numerous other awards for other films, even being short-listed for an Oscar.