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 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 right, Juli traveled 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. We sat down with to hear the story of the Wampanoag's from the tribe - the good, and the bad. As Juli collected the information from her own life, 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 handwritten by her family during significant 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 to rebuild the infrastructure of an important culture.
Photo provided by Juli Vanderhoop
We needed help to tell the Wampanoag story. Thanks to 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, the tribal elder of the Martha's Vineyard Wampanoag Tribe.
Here are a few fascinating facts:
1. The Wampanoags have a series of Thanksgiving traditions and holidays that center around harvest times throughout the year: