When Jessie Littledoe enrolled in MIT’s linguistics program, she was hoping to recover, or at least trace, the origins of her people’s lost language, Wampanoag. Here she met professor Ken Hale, a white man who turned out to be as invested in her aim as she was. Littledoe’s story forms the center of We Still Live Here (Âs Nutayuneân), the fascinating documentary premiering on Independent Lens 17 November. It’s a center from which multiple other stories emerge, traversing borders of time and place, communities and individuals.
The film traces the initial encounters between the Wampanoag tribes (which currently number five) and white settlers, in the area that would become Southeastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island, as well as Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, during the early 1600s. As Jessie and other Wampanoag individuals come together to learn, speak, and keep the language, they forge a new sense of community and also show how others can benefit from such recovery. For it’s not only the Wampanoag who learn about themselves in this ongoing process. Descendents of white settlers can also rediscover their history, as it is entwined with others, as all stories, communities, and histories are connected.
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