A White professor at MIT begins a first one-on-one with a Native American woman. Not college educated, she is pursuing a fellowship in linguistics. “I remember you. You’re Jesse Little Doe.” Ken Hale continued, “Where have you been? I’ve been waiting for you.”
Jesse remembers, years earlier, lashing out at him, and showing disrespect for this White man who suggested to her tribe that he could help them recover their dying language. Hoping not to blow her fellowship at the starting line, this small town girl is anxious to apologize. Before she can, the professor tells her that he is sorry for his past smugness.
“We Still Live Here” presents the largely assimilated yet proudly distinguished remnants of the Wampanoag in Massachusetts. Partaking of this story of resurgence, it is curious to observe Indian features mixed over centuries with other blood.
Centuries ago, these people were knocked off their land, separated from their families and culture, decimated by yellow fever. Yet they say in Wampanoag, “Âs Nutayuneân.” “We still live here.”
Resonant animation punctuates the wonderful tone and insight of this respectful film. It focuses on efforts to save a language barely hanging on as street names and in the names of retail businesses. Language is culture. Language is a centerpiece for sustaining a people’s heritage.
Jesse Little Doe Baird became a linguist. She is a committed and engaging teacher. She seems to be the woman embodied from a Wampanoag Vision, the person born to return native language to her people. Will the children grow up speaking the Wampanoag language? Watch these people try.