|| 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%
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.