Massachusetts tribe reclaims language lost to colonization


MASHPEE, Mass. (AP) – The Massachusetts tribe whose ancestors shared a Thanksgiving meal with the Pilgrims nearly 400 years ago is reclaiming its long lost language.

The Mashpee Wampanoag (MASH’-pee WAHM’-puh-nawg) tribe of Massachusetts is in its second year of operating a preschool immersion program where only the tribe’s native tongue is permitted. The tribe also is running a new language class at the local public high school.

Jessie “Little Doe” Baird is the tribe’s vice chairwoman. She says some 500 people have taken Wampanoag lessons since it launched language reclamation efforts in the 1990s. Most of country’s over 500 tribes are engaged in some form of language preservation. But the Mashpee Wampanoags are one of the few to have brought back their language without having any surviving adult speakers.

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