The Wôpanaak Language Reclamation Project (WLRP) is a twenty-five year-old nonprofit organization whose mission is to return fluency of Wôpanaak (the Wampanoag language) back to the Wampanoag Indian Nation. The Wampanoag Nation is comprised of four tribal communities: Mashpee, Aquinnah, Assonet and Herring Pond located in Southeastern Massachusetts. We are the first tribal nation on the continent to produce speakers of a language that had no speakers for six generations – over 150 years.
According to Jennifer Weston, WLRP’s Language Director, the revival of endangered languages like Wôpanâak, “embodies the indomitable spirits and love of our Indigenous ancestors, and the power of our ancient languages to continue to shape our contemporary lives and cultural survival as Native peoples.” That indomitable spirit is strong within the Wampanoag community. According to The Endangered Languages Project, Wôpanâak is now officially classified as “awakening” whereas six years ago, it was classified as “extinct.”
To demonstrate that transition in status, our successes over the past twenty-five years have indeed been many.
• We have a dictionary with over 12,000 entries;
• we now have over a dozen fluent speakers;
• we have certified 15 individuals to teach Wôpanaak language classes in virtually every community where there is a concentration of tribal members;
• we offer a host of programming for tribal youth —from toddler to teen— including in-school, after-school and during the summer;
• we are teaching elders their ancestral language;
• and our latest success is opening a full day language immersion preschool.