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  AQUINNAH WAMPANOAG HERITAGE


AQUINNAH WAMPANOAG - "People of the First Light"


The last great North American glacier began its retreat some 10,000 years ago, leaving behind the accumulation of boulders, sand, and clay that is now known as Martha's Vineyard. The ancestors of Wampanoag people have lived for at least 10,000 years at Aquinnah (Gay Head) and throughout the island of Noepe (Martha's Vineyard), pursuing a traditional economy based on fishing, whaling and agriculture. The Aquinnah Wampanoag share the belief that the giant Moshup created Noepe and the neighboring islands, taught our people how to fish and to catch whales, and still presides over our destinies. Their beliefs and a hundred million years of history are imprinted in the colorful clay cliffs of Aquinnah.

The Wampanoag trust lands are located in the southwest portion of Martha's Vineyard Island in the town of Gay Head. The common lands include the Gay Head Cliffs, Herring Creek, and Lobsterville, and other private lands.

From such long history of fishing and whaling traditions, it is not surprising to hear stories such as this one: "My Great Uncle Amos Smalley harpooned the only White Sperm Whale ever taken; and in Sept. 1958 we all got the morning off from school to go watch Uncle Amos show and tell how and where he killed "Moby Dick"on the Dave Garoway Show which is the Today Show now. And I was lucky enough to receive a present from Uncle Amos which was a tooth that Uncle Amos scrimshawed from Moby Dick on my 10th birthday, that to this day is my most treasured gift." - Capt. Buddy was pointing to his great uncle's photograph displayed at his mother's restaurant on the Aquinnah Cliffs.


Herring Creek - Herring Run
The Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe manages a natural herring fishery at the Tribe's Herring Creek. The Tribe leases the herring creek to a Tribal member.

Capt. Buddy said, "The herring creek is now being leased by my youngest brother Brian, whom I assist in the taking of herring. I am passing down the knowledge and expertise that I have learned having run the Aquinnah Wampanoag herring run for the past 33 years in a row. The herring are now used 98% for bass and tuna bait rather than lobster bait due to economic gain ($.50 a piece rather than $45.00 per 55 gal. barrel), and the other 2% is used for pickling. With herring - I called them the Bass Candy, the success rate for catching the big bass is incredible."

Herring spawn in the early spring, beginning approximately in mid March and continuing till June. Tribal fishermen harvest herring during their spawning run from salt water to fresh. Since herring are conceived in fresh water, they will return to their original birthplace to complete their cycle of life year after year.


Wampanoag Aquinnah Shellfish Hatchery (WASH)
WASH is the Tribe's aquaculture facility, shellfish hatchery, created to improve the shellfishing resources available to members of the Tribe, citizens of Martha's Vineyard, and other Southeastern Massachusetts's coastal communities. WASH is expected to produce native species of bay scallops, quahogs, and American oysters. Seed shellfish will be sold to municipal shellfish management agencies, private aquaculturalists, and to the wholesale shellfish market. A percentage of the hatchery produce will be used to restock traditional native fisheries upon which tribal members depend for both sustenance and commercial fishing. Orders may be placed for scallops, quahogs, and oysters by contacting the Wampanoag Tribe Economic Development Office at (508) 645-9265.