June Manning, Aquinnah devotee, dies at age 74

Wampanoag tribal elder and community advocate will be remembered for her dedication, kindness, and wit. 

Writer, volunteer, member of multiple boards, and Aquinnah stalwart June Manning died Monday.

June Manning, who was cherished in many spheres of the Martha’s Vineyard community, died on Monday, Nov. 8, at the age of 74.

As an elder of the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah), a longtime historian and collector of knowledge, and a champion and teacher of Wampanoag culture, the impact of her death is felt across the Island.

In a statement on behalf of the tribe, tribal council Chairwoman Cheryl Andrews-Maltais wrote that the entire community is saddened by the news of Manning’s passing. “An active member of the tribe her entire life, June has been a constant in our community for decades. She served our tribal community in so many capacities; as a member of multiple advisory committees, as well as an employee. She was our resident genealogist, and of course, our community newscaster,” Andrews-Maltais wrote.

Manning was a columnist for the Vineyard Gazette.

Andrews-Maltais noted Manning’s uncanny recollection of names and important dates of tribal members and ancestors, and her ambassadorship on behalf of the tribe, representing the community on many town and Island committees, commissions, and boards — “always ensuring that tribal members had a voice,” Andrews-Maltais wrote. “She touched, and was loved and respected by so many people. She will be missed by all of us. We ask that the Creator help ease the sorrow of her family and friends, and replace that sadness with the innumerable number of happy memories and laughter which June left us to remember her.”

Reached by phone Tuesday, Aquinnah town administrator Jeff Madison said it’s a sad day for the Wampanoag community and the town of Aquinnah. “June was a respected elder and a keeper of a lot of knowledge that she would regularly share. That part of her life will be sorely missed by all of us who valued that. We are all touched by June’s passing,” Madison said.

Select board member Juli Vanderhoop said the dedication Manning showed to her community constituted her entire being, and everyone around her knew how proud she was to be a member of the Wampanoag tribe, and an active supporter of the town. “To lose this elder in the community is a pretty huge blow to a lot of people. Today, I am feeling for the family, and I can’t wait to get home and gather with them so we can all celebrate her life together,” Vanderhoop said.

Just from spending time with Manning, Vanderhoop said, she has learned so much about the history of the Island and of Wampanoag culture. “The Manning family was always a large part of industry in town — fishing and other things. They knew the people, and the fact that June had picked up genealogy, she knew these families, she talked with them, and she carried so much of that knowledge and wisdom throughout her life,” Vanderhoop said. 

Having worn so many different hats on the Vineyard, Vanderhoop said, Manning will be missed on many fronts, and everyone who heads to the town hall to vote or take part in a town meeting will miss her welcoming presence, greeting townspeople as they enter.

“She was always the first one we would see at any voting polls — she would be there helping out all day and all night long, every single time. It will be a sad day when we all have to go back into the town hall for a town meeting or a vote and have her not be there, but we will carry her spirit and her memory always,” Vanderhoop said.

Berta Welch, speaking from her role as president of the Aquinnah Cultural Center board of directors, said Manning reached many different levels of life on the Vineyard, but she always held her fierce advocacy for Wampanoag culture, history, and rights of indigenous people at the core of all she did. “Those were the things she truly believed in, and lived her life as a Wampanoag mother, grandmother, and elder,” Welch said. 

Manning was also a major part of the Martha’s Vineyard Museum. She served on the museum board of directors since 2013, and was a member of the collections committee, the programming committee, and the development committee.

According to Martha’s Vineyard Museum executive director Heather Seger, Manning was always engaged as a board member, and cherished her role as tribal historian. “She has always been an incredible resource for the museum, but more than anything, we will miss her for her kindness, her wit, and her commitment to doing the important work we do here,” Seger said. “She loved us, and we loved her. The Island will be hurting today.”

Oral history curator at the museum Linsey Lee said Manning was passionate, of strong opinion, loving, and kind.

She noted how much Manning’s Wampanoag heritage meant to her, and how the stories, the skills, the beauty, and the challenges of the indigenous nation were a strong source of pride for her. “All these things, and a sense of community bound by family and rich culture,” Lee said. 

According to Lee, Manning was an educator of young people, and she always took the opportunity to pass on her wisdom and historical knowledge to younger tribal members.

Although she lived and thrived in other places, Lee said, Manning’s home was always the Vineyard, and her essence was always Aquinnah. “She was a good friend, and it was always such a joy to run into her as she traveled around the Vineyard, appearing absolutely everywhere,” Lee said. 

Ever since the museum was called the Dukes County Historical Society, Manning was there if people needed information on all things Aquinnah, and she would regularly volunteer her time to help Lee find interesting people to interview, and transcribe interviews for her.

“Her generosity was amazing, her sense of humor was amazing,” Lee said. “I think we all have to say with huge sadness a goodbye to a good friend, and a true child of the Vineyard/Noepe.”


A graveside service for Manning will be held at a time and date to be announced. 


  1. One of the most wonderful woman I have ever had the pleasure of knowing and grateful for her kindness to me always… Blessings to the family.

  2. June was my friend, my advisor, one of my heroes. Watching her as she served on the VTA Board with such dignity and such passion for the workers there; watching her as she helped the Town Administration in Aquinnah with elections and potlucks and whatever else was needed… just watching her tough and kind spirit at work, was wonderful. Oh, how I will miss her!

  3. I got to know June through the Museum. She always had a warm smile and a kind word for this historian “adopted” by the island as a summer resident for the last three decades. I’ll miss seeing her, but more importantly the island and the tribe will miss her. My deepest sympathies to her family. She is a great loss to us all.

  4. I had the pleasure of working with June years ago when we served on the VTA for our respective towns. Her quick wit, engaging humor and complete understanding and knowlege of the job at hand was always there to help us through the most difficult of tasks. She was a beautiful person in every way. I am thankful to have such wonderful memories and will miss our ocassional chance meetings, her radient smile and her warm greetings.

  5. The Island just lost a great lady. We will all miss her so much. Sincere sympathy for her family and the Wampanoag Tribe. Her energy and work for so many issues on the island were amazing, and she always had a kind greeting for anyone lucky enough to know her.

  6. June was a gem of a human being. A very special lady and one of the first people I met when I moved to the Vineyard. A beautiful soul. What a loss.

  7. Very, very sad news! June was a community giant! She will be missed by many. Her empty shoes leave a vacuum! My warmest thoughts for her family.

  8. I’m just stunned to hear of the loss of June Manning. June was a truly amazing woman someone I thought would never leave us. She knew everyone and knew how to bring people together with similar experiences and interests. I’ll never forget how skillfully she got my late husband Brook Zern, a flamenco historían and scholar and the son of the famous flamenco guitarist, Carlos Montoya together. June arranged that we meet her at the Plane View restaurant for breakfast and there she was with Carlos, a year round resident of Aquinnah. Brook had written some derogatory comments about Carlos,Sr, years before, in The NY Times. The meeting started tensely but June smoothed things over so Brook and Carlos Jr became lifelong friends. This never would have happened without June’s incredible ability to bring people together. Her loss for everyone on the Vineyard is profound.

  9. June had a kind heart, sharp wit, keen sense of loyalty, uncanny ability to join us all together, a willingness to help always, and a beautiful smile. I’m grateful that she took me under her wings when I joined the board of MV Community Services several years ago where she served on the board for nine years. She was a champion for Chicken Alley and so loved by all there. She will be dearly missed…

  10. It’s so hard to imagine the Vineyard without June’s wisdom, balance, generosity of spirit and leadership. She reached across cultures and generations and races seamlessly, and always with knowledge of what was needed. She helped serve the fish distribution at the UpIsland COA with as much humor and grace as she sorted donations for the Thrift Shop or served on countless island Boards of Directors. This island will miss her great heart for many years to come.

  11. Sad news but an honor to have known her in so many capacities! A true Vineyarder who welcomed many of us washed ashore but embraced us in her enduring heart and sense of community and her knowledge and honoring the Wampanoag history here. She is a truly a person of great fortitude and compassion to be greatly missed!

  12. I’m so sad to hear this news. June was such an amazing person. When I’d see her, she’d prompt me into quizzing her about various historical facts about the island and the old Vineyard families. She could tell you within SECONDS the middle names of random island people…what years they were born, etc. She was spot-on..EVERY time. One of my favorite people.

  13. I’m so sad to hear this news. June was such an amazing person. When I’d see her, she’d prompt me into quizzing her about various historical facts about the island and the old Vineyard families. She could tell you within SECONDS the middle names of random island people…what years they were born, etc. She was spot-on..EVERY time. One of my favorite people.

  14. June was very kind to my sister, Leah, in later years when they reconnected on social media. They went back as far as high school together. June had a wonderful smile as well as a great sense of humor. Missed? Yes. Loved? Surrounded!

  15. So very sorry to hear of June’s passing. She brought so much light and warmth to the world. It’s clear how many people she touched. Rest In Peace, dear lady.

  16. June was such a special woman. She was full of energy and gave herself fully to the benefit of the island. I have known June for decades and she always asked about my family and we talked about all the wonderful memories. She will be sorely missed.

  17. June was a wonderful, kind and generous person. It feels like I have known her my whole life. She was a nurse in my father’s doctor’s office in Oak Bluffs for years, and always asked about my mother, siblings, daughter—and most recently, my grandson. June was true care giver in all the best sense of the word. June—you will be greatly missed.

  18. I’ve known June since 4th grade in New York. Although she moved away, she never left the friends she made there. She was even instrumental in planning our 50th HS reunion, although she didn’t graduate with us. Every ne there knew her and remembered our years together. That was the kind of person she was…RIP June and blessings on the family and friends she had.

  19. Our amazing June Manning was a force of nature who embodied everything we hold dear about our community. Her generosity, commitment, and warm energy will be dearly missed.

  20. Never forget June! Went to school with her. We were the first at the MV Regional High. You didn’t need to see her daily, monthly, even yearly. You just knew she was there for you whenever you’d bump her way. Always wearing her smile. Very sad news!

  21. Although it was my husband who rode the school bus with June “way back when”, she always treated me as if I were one of those pals, too. One of the kindest women I’ve ever known. May her family and friends feel the love she generated so freely to all of us.

  22. Oh, I am deeply sad to hear this. What a bright Light she was. Great woman and great loss for the island. Paul, my heart goes out to you and your family.💜🙏 Wishing you comfort and Love in your time of grieving. Martha

  23. Damn!!! What a LOVELY Woman. I will always
    remember June’s smile when she first
    spotted you. Always moving…usually to give comfort or improvement to this magical island Too sad….just too damn sad!

  24. What a huge loss for our entire Island community.
    With her great smile, warmth and great heart she enveloped everyone she met with her kindness.

    Condolences to June’s family, friends and to the Tribe she loved.

  25. I am one of so many that will miss June’s ever present smile. She was always curious, interested, and engaging. She is the perfect example of what we should all strive to be in society and within ourselves.
    So special.

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