Sleeping Language Waking Up Thanks to Wampanoag Reclamation Project
So, over the last 20 years, the group has provided language instruction to at least 500 people. Today, there are five different Wampanoag classes taught in Massachusetts. Much more is on tap as the immersion school is expected to open next summer.
Tia Pocknett, Micmac, linguist and language apprentice with the project, has been studying the language for about three and a half years. “Right now, there are hundreds taking classes, and as of now there are more than 50 kids taking classes. And we have some completely fluent speakers,” she said.
Before the school can open, they need a building though. “We are looking at a lot of different sites, and by October, we should have a provisional lease,” Baird said. She founded the project with help from elder Helen Manning, a Wampanoag educator who was passionate about the history and culture.
Finding a place that is accessible to all four Wampanoag communities, the Aquinnah, Mashpee, Assonet, and Herring Pond, will be the biggest challenge. “I think people in general like the idea, but there are concerns. It will be a challenge for people on Martha’s Vineyard, (which is an island) especially during the tourist season,” said Nitana Hicks, who is Wampanoag and a curriculum and language specialist.
Finding teachers proficient in the language is sure to be another challenge. “We are looking for teachers from the four different Wampanoag communities,” Pocknett said.
As a charter school, registration may be open to all Cape Codders, not only the tribal communities. Only a few dozen students will be admitted at first, with plans for many more in the future.
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