Food—its capture, cultivation, preparation, and consumption—represents a cultural act. To explore the multi-cultural tables of Martha’s Vineyard, we head to The Gay Head Cliffs in Aquinnah to venture behind the scenes with members of the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah). There, we explored their roots through stories, tradition and and their relationship with the land.
Our guide is tribal member Juli Vanderhoop, who builds community via her outdoor wood-fired bread oven at Orange Peel Bakery in Aquinnah. Summertime pizza nights bring Vineyarders and visitors from across the island together to share a slice every week. A storyteller in her own right, Juli travelled the world as a commercial pilot and teacher before she returned home to the rolling moors of Aquinnah to open the bakery. Now, she works to pass on the traditions of the past to the next generation.
Our adventure with Juli began weeks before the tour group arrived. When we sat down with to hear the story of the Wampanoag's from the tribe, we heard a very authentic story - the good, and the bad. As Juli collected the information from her own life, and the people around her to share, she came across a box of documents in her house including an old newspaper clipping of the Gay Head Cliffs which looks very different from today's view, along with letters hand written by her family during very important times of their history. It was powerful to watch the unraveling of a story that hopefully can continue to build into the story of hope and rebuilding the infrastructure a culture may exist on.
Photo provided by Juli Vanderhoop
We gathered a lot of information to help lead the tour and collected an amazing amount of facts from the following group: Juli Vanderhoop, Linda Coomes, Director of the Aquinnah Cultural Center, Buddy Vanderhoop, purveyor of Tomahawk Charters, Daniel, a young member of the Martha's Vineyard Wampanoag Tribe who works for the Natural Resource Department, and Christina Hook, tribal elder of the Martha's Vineyard Wampanoag Tribe.
Here are a few of the most fascinating:
1. The Wampanoags have a series of Thanksgiving traditions and holidays that center around harvest times throughout the year:
Penned by the staff of Farm. Field. Sea. and inspired by the experiences of working with Martha's Vineyard's chefs, farmers, fisherman, oyster cultivators, artisan producers and food educators.
Farm.Field.Sea. An Island Culinary Adventure