A Joint Language Reclamation Committee which includes members from the Aquinnah (Gay Head), Mashpee Wampanoag Tribes and Assonet Band has been making steady progress in reclaiming our language. With the help of tribal members and other linguistic experts and consultants a short- and long-term plan was developed to see this ambitious project through fruition.
Wôpanâak is one language in a large family of "sister" languages. The language family is called Algonquian. There was a time in history when all of the Peoples of the East Coast of Canada and North America spoke one mother language. The language is termed Proto-Algonquian. From this orginal mother language, many other dialects evolved as the people spread out to different areas for reasons of population growth and the need to supply the tribes with resources for living. Eventually, these dialects changed enough to become separtate languages.
It was the early missionaries' desire to convert the Wampanoag to Christianity, which motivated them to record the language as they heard it and eventually pulish The Holy Bible in Wôpanâak, the first book published on North American soil. Today, thanks to the efforts of Jessie Fermino, who was guided by Kathleen Bragdon and Ives Goddard ("Native Writings in Massachusett," The American Philosophical Society, 1988), a standardized alphabet and writing system has been established and classes are held for members of the Wampanoag Nation.
To request information or presentations, please contact the Education Program Coordinator at (508) 645-9265, x153.