We Still Live Here

November 17, 2011

by

Anne Makepeace

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About the Documentary

We Still Live Here – Âs Nutayuneân is the story of the revitalization of the Wampanoag language, the first time a language with no native speakers has been revived in this country. The Wampanoag’s ancestors ensured the survival of the Pilgrims in New England, and lived to regret it. Nevertheless, through resilience and courage they kept their identity alive and remained on their ancestral lands. Now a cultural revival is taking place.

The story begins in 1994 when Jessie Little Doe, an intrepid, 30-something Wampanoag social worker, began having recurring dreams: familiar-looking people from another time addressing her in an incomprehensible language. Jessie was perplexed and a little annoyed — why couldn’t they speak English? Later, she realized they were speaking Wampanoag, a language no one had used for more than a century.

These events sent her and members of the Aquinnah and Mashpee Wampanoag communities on an odyssey that would uncover hundreds of documents written in their ancestral language, lead Jessie to a earn herself a masters degree in linguistics at MIT, and result in something that had never been done before – bringing a language alive again in an American Indian community after many generations with no native speakers. With commitment, study groups, classes, and communitywide effort, many are approaching fluency. Jessie’s young daughter Mae is the first native speaker in more than a hundred years.


The Filmmaker

Anne Makepeace
Anne Makepeace has been a writer, producer, and director of award-winning independent films for more than 20 years. Her films include We Still Live Here – Âs Nutayuneân which won the Full Frame Inspiration Award and the Moving Mountains Prize at Telluride MountainFilm; I.M. Pei: Building China Modern, (PBS/American Masters 2010); Rain in a Dry Land (lead show on P.O.V. 2007) winner of the Full Frame Working Films Award, Emmy nomination; Robert Capa in Love and War, (PBS/American Masters 2003), national Prime Time Emmy Award; Coming to Light (PBS/American Masters 2003), short-listed for an Oscar and winner of many prizes; and Baby It’s You (lead show on P.O.V. 1998), Whitney Biennial 2000. Makepeace also wrote the screenplay for Thousand Pieces of Gold and the American Experience documentary Ishi, the Last Yahi.

 

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Is it possible for a language that has not been spoken for generations to become vibrant once more?

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