We Still Live Here – Âs Nutayuneân

Nov 6th, 2012 | By | Category: 24-2: The Future of the Tribal College Movement, Media Reviews
By Jurgita Antoine, Ph.D.

WE STILL LIVE HEREDirected by Anne Makepeace
Bullfrog Films (2010)

Review by Dr. Jurgita Antoine

The documentary film “We Still Live Here – Âs Nutayuneân” shows the success of the Wôpanâak (Wampanoag) Language Reclamation Project in restoring their language. One of the Native languages of New England, Wampanoag was spoken by the people who first met the Pilgrims who landed in Plymouth in the 17th century; its last speakers reportedly passed away more than a century ago.

Wampanoag is the first American Indian language in the United States re-created from written documents and comparisons with other Algonquian languages. Today, it is producing new speakers.

The movie opens with a prophecy that the Wampanoag language will disappear and return. Jessie Little Doe Baird has a recurring dream of her ancestors speaking their Native tongue. They tell her to go to the community and ask the people if they want to bring back their language. The community agrees, and the work of language revitalization begins. Today, Jessie’s daughter Mae is the first speaker of Wampanoag in seven generations.

In “We Still Live Here – Âs Nutayuneân,” filmmaker Anne Makepeace traces Baird’s steps from a social worker to a leader in language revitalization as she earns a research fellowship at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and collaborates with renowned linguist Ken Hale to create a 10,000-word Wampanoag dictionary.

The film also includes interviews with Wampanoag community members and linguists, landscapes full of life, still images of archival documents, and animated historical scenes. Throughout the film, Makepeace succeeds in bringing out emotional connections to the past and present and the spirituality of the scholarly work. The film offers an inspiring story: language can be brought back. This film also offers a positive portrayal of Native people—a people who are strong, persevering, and full of hope for an even brighter future.

Jurgita Antoine, Ph.D., is a project coordinator and linguist for Lakota Documentaries at Sinte Gleska University.

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