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Wampanoag

WAMPANOAG

WAMPANOAG. In the seventeenth century the Gay Head (or Aquinnah) Indians of Martha's Vineyard were members of a confederacy of Wampanoag communities in southeastern Massachusetts. After epidemic diseases struck Martha's Vineyard in the 1640s, dropping its Indian population from 3,000 to 1,500, the terrorized survivors embraced Christianity and allied with the English. These shifts led Vineyard Natives to fight alongside colonists


when they successfully battled mainland Wampanoags in King Philip's War of 1675–1676.

In 1685 the Gay Head Indians deposed their sachem (chief) for selling land. However, a mixed blessing occurred when a missionary organization, the New England Company, acquired the title to Gay Head. The company supervised Gay Head until the Revolution, and although Indians resented its oversight, it kept the colonists from seizing Wampanoag territory. Secure land and Indian church leadership stabilized Gay Head throughout the eighteenth century as its people struggled with indebtedness, indentured servitude, male whaling deaths, exogamous marriages, and the loss of the Wampanoag language.

In 1871 Massachusetts made Gay Head a town and divided its common lands. Nevertheless it remained a Wampanoag place because the Natives discouraged treating land as capital, passed on the people's stories, and rallied around their church. In 1983 the Wampanoags of Gay Head-Aquinnah successfully petitioned the United States to become a federal tribe and established a reservation.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

McBride, Kevin, and Suzanne G. Cherau. "Gay Head (Aquinnah) Wampanoag Community Structure and Land Use Patterns." Northeast Anthropology 51 (1996): 13–39.

Mandell, Daniel R. Behind the Frontier: Indians in Eighteenth-Century Eastern Massachusetts. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1996.

Silverman, David J. "Conditions for Coexistence, Climates for Collapse: The Challenges of Indian Life on Martha's Vineyard, 1524–1871." Ph.D. diss., Princeton University, 2000.

Simmons, William S. Spirit of the New England Tribes: Indian History and Folklore, 1620–1984. Hanover, N.H.: University Press of New England, 1986.

Starna, William A. "'We'll All Be Together Again': The Federal Acknowledgement of the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head." Northeast Anthropology 51 (1996): 3–12.

David J.Silverman

See alsoMassachusetts ; New England Company .

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Wampanoag

Wampanoag (wäm´pənō´ăg), Native North Americans whose language belongs to the Algonquian branch of the Algonquian-Wakashan linguistic stock (see Native American languages). In the early 17th cent. they occupied the region extending E from Narragansett Bay to the Atlantic Ocean, including Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard. The Wampanoag were sometimes referred to as the Pokanoket, from the name of their principal village. When the Pilgrims settled (1620) at Plymouth, the Wampanoag, although reduced by the pestilence of 1617, were powerful, living in some 30 villages. Their chief, Massasoit, was very friendly to the settlers. His son, Metacom (Philip), however, was the central figure of the deadliest war with the colonists, King Philip's War (1675). The victory of the English brought ruin to the tribe. The Wampanoag were harried almost out of existence, the remnant consolidating with the Saconnet. However, in 1990 there were over 2,000 Wampanoag living in the United States, most of them in Massachusetts. The Wampanoag were of the Eastern Woodlands culture area (see under Natives, North American).

See M. A. Travers, The Wampanoag Indian Federation of the Algonquian Nation (rev. ed. 1961).

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