NOVEMBER 18, 1963


Born in Mashpee, Massachusetts, Baird, since 1993, has worked to resurrect spoken Wopânâak, the language that the Wampanoag spoke when greeting the Pilgrims.  She’s written a dictionary, received a Master’s degree in linguistics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and received a MacArthur Fellowship.  On July 4, 2004, Jessie spoke the first word spoken in Wopânâak in generations:  Kuweeqâhsun, “good morning,” literally “you are in the light.”  Wopânâak had existed in written form–  the first Bibles published in Boston were in either Wopânâak, or closely related Massachusett.  Using related Algonquian languages as guides, Baird worked to stitch Wopânâak together, word-by-word.  She currently teaches the language and is featured in a PBS documentary on language revival, We Still Live Here – Âs Nutayuneân.  She also serves as Vice-Chairwoman of the Mashpee Wampanoag Indian Tribal Council.  In 2017, Baird received an honorary Doctorate in Social Sciences from Yale University.

Source:  Justin Shatwell, "The Long-Dead Native Language Wopânâak is Revived," Yankee Magazine, 10/9/2012.  Retrieved 7/19/2019,
Photo:  Courtesy John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, 2010.  Permissive Use pursuant to Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License,

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