Tags Posts tagged with "Wampanoag"


A season of Wampanoag cookery.

Among the Wampanoag, winter months are known as the Time of the Long Moon. – Photo by Steve Myrick

For earth-wise indigenous peoples, intimate and profound knowledge of the seasons form the rich foundation of cultural sustainability over millennia. The traditional cookery of the Wampanoag of the Cape and Islands evolved in harmony with what the land and sea could provide, with the innovative techniques the people employed to yield a rich bounty, and with the cyclic turning of the dramatic New England seasons.

wampanoag_cookery“We began planning for the cold season long before it arrived,” writes Chief Flying Eagle of the Mashpee Wampanoags in the Cape Cod Wampanoag Cookbook, co-written by Betty Breen of Falmouth. “The pole beans would be tied together with the squash and corn to unite the Three Sisters. Most onions, carrots, and beets were kept in the salt hay and soil in the cellar, but some were left in the ground under salt hay to sweeten with the first frost… Meanwhile, because of the cold, we’d be getting ready to slaughter a pig.”

Winter months, or Quinne Keeswush, Papsaquoho, Paponakeeswush, are also known as the Time of the Long Moon, the season when the darkness of night has seized the sky and the cold of winter has seized the land. In traditional times, dried legumes, berries, vegetables, cured meats, and seasonings would be collected and stored carefully in pits, near or inside the wigwams. Wampanoag Cookery, published by the Boston’s Children’s Museum in 1974, says that people “lined the pits with mats, carefully put in their dried vegetables, meats, and nuts and covered the pit with another mat and heaped earth on top of all of it. When people needed food in the winter, they would get it from these pits, with the exception of a fish caught through the ice or animals taken in traps.”

Recipes survive as a complex interplay of oral and active traditions. Foodways evolve with modernized techniques and ingredients, yet seek to replicate the essence of how a dish tasted the first time, way back, in our unalterable cultural sense-memory. “Winter is the time when the land rests,” says Wampanoag Cookery, and yet the simple abundance of the traditional table should be admired for the inspired dishes that sustained and warmed people as the wind and ice wrapped the darkest days of the year.

Deer Stew
Recipe by Helen Attaquin, as it appears in Wampanoag Cookery

Brown two to three pounds of deer meat cut into pieces in bacon fat. Add two large sliced onions and continue browning. When nicely browned, stir in 3 tbsp. flour and place in baking dish. Add 2 tbsp. vinegar, 3 tbsp. ketchup, 1 tbsp. sugar, and salt and pepper to taste. Cover the meat with water and bake at 375ºF degrees for two to three hours, until the meat is tender, adding water if necessary to keep the meat covered. When done, thicken the gravy and serve. Serves 4 to 6.

Gay Head Beach Plum Porridge
Recipe by Rachel Jeffers, as it appears in Wampanoag Cookery

First parboil raisins (beach plums) and pour off the water. Then add fresh water and boil until tender. Heat milk and add sugar to taste, also butter and nutmeg. Then add a bit of flour thickening.

Wild Duck
Recipe by Earl Mills Sr., Chief Flying Eagle, as it appears in Cape Cod Wampanoag Cookbook

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Stuff duck cavity with sliced apples and celery tops. Place strips of bacon over the breast and add 1½ cups of water or chicken stock, along with the neck and giblets, to the pan. For a well-done duck, roast 15 minutes per pound, basting every 15 minutes with the fat stock in the pan, along with a mixture of 2 tbsp. of butter and ½ cup red wine.

Goodin’ Puddin’ and Goodin’ Puddin’ Pie
Recipe by Ruth Ellis and Norman and Shirley Stolz, as it appears in Cape Cod Wampanoag Cookbook

Preheat oven to 325ºF. Grease 8” by 4” by 4” loaf pan with 2 tsp. cooking oil. Add 1 cup cranberries, ¼ cup sugar, and ¼ cup chopped nuts to loaf pan. Beat ½ cup sugar, ¼ cup melted butter, and 1 egg until smooth. Fold in flour and pour mixture over berries. Bake for 45 minutes. You may double the recipe and bake in a deep-dish pie plate, for 6 to 8 servings.

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Erected by Air Force reservists in 2004, the Wampanoag tribe said it plans to convert its unfinished community center into a class II gaming facility. — Photo by Nelson Sigelman

U.S. District Court Judge F. Dennis Saylor IV ruled from the bench Wednesday in U.S. Federal District Court in Boston that the town of Aquinnah and the Aquinnah/Gay Head Community Association Inc. (AGHCA) may intervene in a lawsuit Governor Deval Patrick filed to block the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) from building what the tribe has described as a boutique casino on tribal lands.

Governor Patrick first filed suit in December in state court. The Wampanoag tribe argued that the case rightly belonged in federal court. Earlier this month, Judge Saylor agreed, noting that the body of federal law supersedes state law with respect to gaming on Indian lands. On July 10, the town and AGHCA filed motions to intervene.

The case, now in federal court, could determine if the Wampanoag Tribe may build a casino in Aquinnah. The central issue and major hurdle in the tribe’s long-running battle to build a casino, either in southeastern Massachusetts or on tribal lands on Martha’s Vineyard, is the Settlement Agreement, signed by tribal leadership in 1983 and ratified by the state Legislature in 1985 and by Congress in 1987, which stipulated that the tribe was subject to local and state laws and zoning regulations in effect at the time.

Ron Rappaport, Aquinnah town counsel, said that the town has no interest in whether the Aquinnah tribe games anywhere other than in the town of Aquinnah. “We want to be heard because we want to protect the interests of the citizens of the town, and we’re pleased that we have now been formally allowed to intervene in the case.”

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The wetu lookalike presents visitors to the Gay Head Cliffs in Aquinnah with Wampanoag culture, history and current projects.

The Wampanoag heritage exhibit includes interactive displays. — Photo by Nathaniel Horwitz

The Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) welcomed tourists, tribal members, and Island residents on Friday to the grand opening of a heritage exhibit at one of the Gay Head cliff lots along the path to the popular scenic vantage point.

Great new destination in Aquinnah.
Great new destination in Aquinnah.

A one-room wetu, a traditional Wampanoag dwelling, is filled with furs, nets, and interactive displays. The tribe’s Natural Resources and Historic Preservation departments created the exhibit to display the history, culture, and present-day programs of the tribe.

The Friday morning celebration began with a smudging ceremony. Medicine man Jason Baird burned sage in and around the building. “It is to purify the space and welcome the people,” he told The Times.

Tribal chairman Tobias Vanderhoop thanked the tribal council, the Natural Resource Commission, and the contractors responsible for the wetu.

Natural Resources director Bret Stearns oversaw and coordinated the project. “It’s very exciting to be here, it’s been a long project,” he told visitors. “We started in 2011 when we went to the tribal council, the vision changed and it grew, and here we are today.”

The Environmental Protection Agency funded the exhibit with a grant of approximately $35,000. The tribe contributed another $35,000, Mr. Stearns said.

The turtle is a centerpiece.
The turtle is a centerpiece.

Tribal Historic Preservation officer Bettina Washington explained the significance of the exhibit. “This building has important elements of our culture,” she said. “Who the Wampanoag are, how we got here, and how we’re still here and what we’re doing.”

Visitors flowed through the building. They admired raccoon and skunk furs, brushed their fingers against a traditional fishing net and examined the displays, including an electronic, interactive kiosk in the corner.

The centerpiece of the wetu is a large floor tile that depicts a turtle crafted from stone and wampum, which represents the tribal concept that the world was created on the back of a turtle. Cultural Resource monitor Elizabeth James Perry created the tile. Tribal member Jason Widdiss used natural materials for the inlay. On the day of the opening, the turtle was wreathed in light from a skylight, representing the traditional smoke hole of a wetu dwelling.

“The doors are open, people are in, it’s great,” Mr. Stearns told The Times. “It’s easy to put up a building; it’s difficult to put up a culturally representative building.”

Tobias Vanderhoop, Jason Baird and Bret Stearns open the Wampanoag heritage exhibit.
Tobias Vanderhoop, Jason Baird and Bret Stearns open the Wampanoag heritage exhibit.

In a later conversation, Mr. Stearns said he encourages Islanders with old photographs or cultural artifacts to call his office at 508-645-9265 about putting them on display.  “We don’t just want it to be a one-time visit, we want to change the content so that residents and visitors can go there and enjoy it multiple times,” he said.

The exhibit will be open throughout the tourist season each year. “Now that it has been open for a few days it’s been incredibly well-received,” Mr. Stearns said. “People go in there and enjoy it and read the material, and I think it really provides a great destination.”