Through the processes of religious conversion, laws against the use of the language, mainstream education, and commerce, the Wampanoag language ceased to be spoken around the time period of the mid 19th century. There were no fluent speakers of the language for six generations; over 150 years.
The Wôpanâak Language Reclamation Project began in 1993 under the direction of Jessie 'little doe' Baird who earned a Masters Degree in Algonquian Linguistics from MIT in 2000. Through the joint collaborative efforts of members of The Assonet Band of Wampanoag, The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, the Wampanoag Tribe of Aquinnah and the Herring Pond Barnd of Wampanoag, the project aims to return fluency to the Wampanoag Nation as a principal means of expression.
The Wôpanâak Language Reclamation Project understands that it is the birth right of each Wampanoag child and adult to speak her or his Language given by Creator. The project successes to date are:
- The only inter-tribal cooperative project for the tribes of the Wampanoag
- The credentialed training of two Wampanoag linguists
- Over ten certified language teachers
- The development of a dictionary that currently holds over 11,000 words
- The development of curriculum for second language acquisition of adult learners
- The development of a no English curriculum for all ages
- Immersion camp curriculum for all ages
- 3-Week Summer Youth Program for children ages 6 - 12
The first American Indian language to reclaim a Language with no living speakers. There is a young child now being raised with Wampanoag as a first language. She is the first Native speaker of the language since the
mid 19th century.