Aquinnah Wampanoag Nation

About Aquinnah Wampanoag Nation

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 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. Our beliefs and a hundred million years of history are imprinted in the colorful clay cliffs of Aquinnah.

Some 400 years ago Europeans reached Noepe in sufficient numbers to leave a record, and by the 1700's there were English settlements over most of the island. Our presence was quickly felt, and between, the dislocation from land dealings, and the influence of disease, our populations were reduced and our territories constricted. By the 1800's there remained but three native communities on Martha's Vineyard: Aquinnah, Christiantown, and Chappaquiddick. Aquinnah being the most populous and organized, we were able to maintain control over our land, despite intense efforts by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to end our existence. Over the past 100 years more and more native land has been lost as changes in the local economy forced tribal members to sell their lands, move to other parts of the island , or to leave the island altogether. Aquinnah was at different times in history referred to as a "praying town," an Indian District, and an incorporated town. Throughout it all we remain a sovereign tribe.

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