Historical Background of the Wampanoag
Homelands Aquinnah TH.jpg (2766 bytes)The Wampanoag Nation once included all of Southeastern Massachusetts and Eastern Rhode Island, encompassing over 67 distinct tribal communities. The Wampanoag people have undergone a very difficult history after assisting pilgrims in the early 1600s. The vast majority of these tribal communities were killed in battles initiated by colonists to secure land. Today, only six visible tribal communities remain Mashpee and Aquinnah have maintained
physical and cultural presence on their ancestral homelands. Linking these tribal communities through preservation efforts is essential for survival of the many cultural arts and traditions at risk of being lost. Members of the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) are concerned about the loss of knowledge threatening the continuation of their culture and are moved to act on developing the Aquinnah Cultural Center as a Wampanoag cultural resource.
Recent Cultural History
In 1870, over the unanimous objections of the Wampanoag Indian residents, the Town of Gay Head was incorporated. From the Wampanoag point of view, the principal effect of the incorporation of Gay Head was the alienation of Wampanoag Indian District Lands (reservation), which was in violation of the Federal Non-Intercourse Act of 1790. Because the Tribe controlled the Gay Head town government for more than a century since 1870, the effects of this alienation were largely obscured,
and the integrity of the Tribal Common Lands seemed to be adequately protected. In 1972, however, in response to the growing potentiality for encroachment on Tribal Common Lands, the Wampanoag Tribal Council of Gay Head, Inc. (WTCGH) was formed to promote self-determination among Wampanoag people, to ensure preservation and continuation of Wampanoag history and culture, to achieve Federal recognition for the Tribe, and to seek the return of Tribal lands to the Wampanoag people.
The political identity of the Wampanoag Tribe has continued under the township's laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, but over the past 50 years more and more Indian land has been lost as changes in the local economy have forced more Indians to move to other parts of the Island or to leave the Island altogether. In 1987 the Wampanoag Tribe gained the status of federal recognition as an Indian Tribe, the only federally recognized Tribe in the State of Massachusetts.
The Wampanoag Tribal Council is a popularly elected representative tribal government, whose meetings are open to all members to encourage community involvement in all phases of community development. Community participation is further enhanced by general membership meetings, special meetings, public hearings, and, when appropriate, referenda such as the referendum called to approve the settlement agreement between the Tribe and the State and Federal Governments. The Tribal Council maintains communication with the General Membership of the Tribe through regular mailings, newsletters, and day-to-day interaction between Tribal members and Councilors. These means of communication were utilized to ensure participation by the general membership in the planning process for the Aquinnah Cultural Center.
In 1998, the town name of Gay Head was changed to Aquinnah, representing recognition of Wampanoag history in the region. Traditionally, the Wampanoag people have been, and continue to be, self-reliant and independent, preferring hard work and subsistence to dependence on local, state or federal governments.
Aquinnah Cultural Center Board of Directors
This board provides a vital function of cultural guidance and development of policy regarding the cultural center. While the tribal community determines priorities of what will be taught by means of annual needs assessments, the Cultural Center Board of Directors determines method of best carrying out cultural activities and priorities. The Board of Technical Advisors also contributes to the technical and research aspects of method.
Berta Welch, President
Tobias Vanderhoop, Vice-President
Adriana Ignacio, Treasurer