Many of us were taught that the first Thanksgiving occurred in 1621, when the Wampanoag (wahm-pah-no-ahg) "eastern people" or "people of the dawn" and white settlers-think Mayflower 1620- celebrated a three day harvest festival together. This was not a “Thanksgiving, “ as Pilgrims viewed such celebrations as days of worship, in which they prayed to God in thanks for a specific event. A good harvest, victory in battle during the Revolutionary war, and sufficient rain were all viewed as reasons for a Thanksgiving.
The Wampanoag had lived in southeastern New England for over 12,000 years. Within 50 years of the 1621 harvest feast, the Indians were driven from their land and many died from disease brought by the Europeans. Today, there are less than 5,000 of their descendants.
Along with the destruction of their culture, the Wampanoag were banned from speaking their language. However, thanks to Jessie “little doe” Baird, the Wopanaak language is once being spoken.
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.
Today’s “take a break” is to learn some simple words in Wopanaak. Check out the following links:
Wôpanâak Language Reclamation Project
We Still Live Here Details Effort to Restore Wampanoag Language (PBS Documentary) Excerpt