Island nonprofit buys Aquinnah land for shelter

Millicent Smalley, Finance and Operations Director and Jennifer Randolph Executive Director are on the plane when they found out the money had been raised. — Courtesy Kinship Heals

A Vineyard nonprofit announced this week they have closed on a nearly eight-acre parcel of land in Aquinnah that will serve indigenous communities on the Island and the mainland as both a food pantry and shelter for survivors of domestic violence.

Kinship Heals, a nonprofit that came together last year consisting mainly of members of the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah), received nearly $2 million in contributions within a two-month period to purchase the property.

“This is really exciting. It’s a dream from every tribal person to see ancestral homelands returned to us,” Kinship executive director Jennifer Randolph told the Times a day after closing on the property. “Any time we can get land back into our tribe, it is huge.”

The money for the land purchase came from about 100 individual donations and from the Kataly Foundation, a group supporting Black and indigenous communities. Kinship also worked with Solidaire Network to secure donations, a group that helps mobilize funding for social justice causes.

The Kinship executive director says they were amazed and overwhelmed when the money came together, especially because it happened so quickly. “It was really quite unbelievable,” she said, when the donations came through. “I can’t tell you how many tears we’ve shed in just joy.” 

Randolph says the first step for the facility is to bring in an ecologist to study the land to make sure they are working in harmony with the natural environment. That’s before producing any building plans or materials, but the goal is to possibly build two homes for the shelter.

There’s also a plan to start a “food forest” of native plants in order to harvest produce for the food pantry.

Randolph says that Aquinnah and the up-Island community is somewhat of a food desert, with no grocery store in the area. If Aquinnah gets blocked off from the rest of the Island during a storm, the hope is to provide food at the new location.

A large part of the plan is to help indigenous women who experience domestic abuse as they transition back to the community. They won’t have to pay for their housing, so they can focus on healing and putting their lives back together, Randolph says. They’ll also have access to native healing traditions, and be able to get counseling. “This will provide much better outcomes for people,” Randolph said. “The community will be better served.”


  1. This is so cool! Our community will really benefit from an organization like this. It would be great to have the papers print contact information to allow for continued donations by moved citizens.

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