Film about lost languages spurs K-Staters to examine heritage


Editor’s Note: This article was completed as an assignment for a class in the A.Q. Miller School of Journalism and Mass Communications.

Death is not permanent for languages. A language that has been lost can be found again and with it, the culture of the people who speak it. This was the discussion of the film “We Still Live Here” at the Leadership Studies Building last night. The film was presented by the student group HandsOn Kansas State.

“We Still Live Here” is a documentary about Jessie Little Doe and her journey to revive the language of her people, the Wampanoag. This tribe, who saved the Pilgrims from death when they first came to the continent, have not spoken the language in more than 100 years. Little Doe spent years at MIT researching the language through documents and a Bible written in the Wampanoag language to learn this lost language and re-teach it to her people.

“There’s more to a language than a language; it’s the culture,” said Gus van der Hoeven, retired professor of horticulture, at the discussion after the film.

The discussion, which covered a number of subjects, focused on reviving a language that has been lost. Autumn Town, senior in social sciences, said reviving the language was not moving backwards, but moving forwards.

Candi Hironaka, senior associate director in the school of leadership studies, is third-generation Japanese. Hironaka said her parents were interred in a camp during World War II, as many Japanese families in America were. They chose to teach their children only English and gave them English names to make them as American as possible.

“I never gave it a second thought as a child,” Hironaka said. But she said she has tried to learn more about Japanese culture and her children are learning Japanese.

“The world is shrinking and we cannot look at ourselves as the dominant culture,” Hironaka said.

Many of the people who watched the film and took part in the discussion talked about their heritage and where their ancestors had come from. Many said they would like to learn more about where they come from.

Christian Mullen, freshman in theater and secondary education, said he is of German and Czech descent. He said he wished he knew more about the cultures. His family has books about their family history going back several generations that ended with his grandfather. These books were lost for a time, but he found them in the attic.

Elizabeth Cardy, graduate student in drama therapy, said she went to Scotland for a visit and felt a deep spiritual connection with the land of her ancestors.

HandsOn Kansas State will be showing another film on Dec. 5 at 7 p.m. in the Leadership Studies Building. The film, “Troop 1500,” is about a Girl Scout troop that unites daughters with their mothers who are in prison for crimes. For more information, visit