Wampanoag language set to be revitalized by public charter school
[PHOTO: Wopanaak language student holding sign with the text, “My ancestors are pleased with me.” Wopanaak Language Reclamation Project.]
Jessie ‘Little Doe’ Baird, vice chairwoman of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, founded the Wampanoag Language Reclamation Project in 1993.
Now, a proposed charter school designed to immerse young children in the Wopanaak language is in the mix for state approval this year, but organizers are still waiting for an invite to make their pitch.
The Weetumuw Wopanaak Charter School is part of the Wopanaak Language Reclamation Project, which aims to preserve and revitalize the native tongue of the Wampanoag ancestors. The school will start with a group of kindergarten and first-grade students and eventually run through the fifth grade and enroll up to 100 students, said charter developer Jennifer Weston. Four of the school day’s six hours will be taught in Wopanaak, with an English/language arts segment being the only exception.
The Language Reclamation Project was one of seven groups that submitted a prospectus to the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education this summer. The department will examine the documents and decide which programs, if any, will move on to the final application stage.
The school’s reach encompasses four Wampanoag tribes and communities: the Assonet Band of Wampanoag, the Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe, the Herring Pond Wampanoag Tribe and the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe.
The state is expected to make its decisions from the final round of applicants by early February, Weston said.