Project History 

The Wôpanâak Language Reclamation Project began in 1993 under the direction of jessie 'little doe' baird who earned a Master’s 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 Band of Wampanoag, our mission is to return language fluency to the Wampanoag Nation as a principal means of expression.

 

Wôpanâôt8âôk (Wampanoag Language) is one of more than three dozen languages classified as belonging to the Algonquian language family. It was the first American Indian language to develop and use an alphabetic writing system. The primary reason for the development of an alphabet was the goal of the missionaries, arriving from England in the early 1600s, to convert the Wampanoag to Christianity.

 

Religious documents began being put to press in the 1640s and the first complete bible printed in the ‘New World’ was published in 1663 in the Wampanoag language. It would not be long before the Wampanoag would use this medium as the principal means of communication with European newcomers throughout New England. Wampanoag also used written documents to record personal letters, wills, deeds, and land transfers amongst each other and between communities. As a result, the language enjoys the largest corpus of Native written documents on the continent. 

“Reclaiming our language is one means of repairing the broken circle of cultural loss and pain. To be able to understand and speak our language means to see the world as our families did for centuries. This is but one path which keeps us connected to our people, the earth, and the philosophies and truths given to us by the Creator.”   

-- jessie ‘little doe’ baird, Project Founder

© 2020 WLRP