Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe And The Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head

Wampanoag educator at Plimoth Plantation
Wampanoag educator at Plimoth Plantation

6. Who Are The Wampanoag Tribe? -

The Wampanoag people are a Native American tribe that inhabits Aquinnah, also known as Gay Head, and Noepe Island, also known as Martha’s Vineyard. Today, many of these people belong to one of two federally recognized tribes: Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head and the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe. Their population size is just over 2,000.

5. Wampanoag Tribe History -

Prior to European contact, the Wampanoag lived throughout present-day Rhode Island and Massachusetts for many generations, and there were tens of thousands of these people. The Wampanoag cultivated corn, squash, and beans, and relied on the coastlines for fishing. In the 1600’s, Europeans began to arrive, bringing with them diseases that caused widespread death among the Wampanoag. With a decreased population, the new settlers were able to take more land, and by the 1700’s, they had established colonies throughout the Wampanoag territory. The few indigenous people that remained were pushed off of their territories, and by the 1800’s, they inhabited only 3 communities: Aquinnah, Christiantown, and Chappaquiddick. These few survivors and their descendants went on to adapt to the changing culture and economy while continuing to practice many aspects from their ancestral culture. Many, however, were forced to sell their tribal lands and leave the island. Those who stayed fought for many years against various government attempts to eradicate the population.

4. Where Do They Live Today? -

Some of the enrolled Wampanoag members live on the Watuppa Wampanoag Reservation on Martha’s Vineyard. Of the two bands, only the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head have reservation land; it consists of 485 acres on the southwestern side of the island. Of 1,121 registered members, only 91 were living in Aquinnah in 2000. The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe have over 1,400 enrolled members. To be an enrolled member, they must live within 20 miles of Mashpee, a town located in Barnstable County of Massachusetts.

3. Wampanoag Tribe Language -

The original language of the tribe is Massachusett-Wampanoag language, part of the Algonquian language family. In 1663, a missionary created a written alphabet for the language and translated the Christian Bible. Many people learned the alphabet and used the language for written communications. However, during the American Revolution, the tribe lost a large percentage of its male population and women outnumbered the men. Women began to intermarry with European residents and gradually lost their language. Researchers believe that the last native speaker died over 100 years ago. Beginning in 1993, as part of a culture revival movement, tribal leaders began the Wampanoag Language Reclamation Project. Its objective is to train teachers and create a teaching curriculum in order to establish a Wampanoag language school. Currently, a few children have learned the language, making them the first speakers in over a century.

2. Wampanoag Tribe Clothing -

Traditional clothing of the Wampanoag people included a leather breechcloth. This article of clothing was worn between the legs and had a long flap in the front, and a belt held up the back. In colder seasons, everyone used mantles. These were also made of leather and draped over the torso, tied above one shoulder. When the weather was very cold, the Wampanoag used mantles made of fur skins and wore the fur on the inside. Both men and women wore leggings. Men wore leggings up to their waist and women wore leggings up to their knees. Women also wore deerskin skirts under mantles.

1. Culture Of The Wampanoag Tribe -

The Wampanoag peoples work under a matrilineal system in which the women control property and positions of status are passed on through the maternal line. Women were responsible for cultivating food gardens, collecting fruits and nuts, and shellfish. Men contributed by hunting and fishing. Each confederation had a political leader, or sachem, who was responsible for arranging trade among tribes and protecting the tribe as well as allies. The Sachem made decisions after consulting with Council members and people from the communities. Both men and women could hold the position.


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