Aquinnah, Martha's Vineyard

Aquinnah, Martha's Vineyard


Aquinnah the smallest of the Island towns is located on the island of Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts. Until 1997, the town was called Gay Head. The population was 311 at the 2010 U.S. census. It is known for its beautiful clay cliffs and quiet natural serenity. In 1965, Gay Head Cliffs were designated as a National Natural Landmark by the National Park Service.

Aquinnah has become celebrated as a center of Wampanoag culture and a center of pride and tradition among members of the federally recognized Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head. They make up about one-third of the town's voters and are one of two federally recognized tribes of Wampanoag people in Massachusetts. This area is one of the earliest sites of whaling. The Wampanoag harvested whales from small boats and the shore, using harpoons, long before the 19th-century industry of whaling became the major maritime industry of Martha's Vineyard.

In February 2019, the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head announced it will begin construction of the Aquinnah Cliffs Casino in March 2019. The tribe is scheduled to proceed with construction despite opposition from the towns of Aquinnah and Chilmark, and a request from the Martha's Vineyard Commission for the Wampanoag tribe to work with the commission to "preserve the unique values of the Vineyard." The Wampanoag tribe says the commission has no jurisdiction over the project.

The Gay Head cliffs of clay, located on the western-most part of the island. In 1796, Massachusetts State Senator, Peleg Coffin, requested a lighthouse be installed on Martha's Vineyard above the Gay Head cliffs overlooking a dangerous section of underwater rocks known as "Devil's Bridge."

The Gay Head Lighthouse Committee worked in conjunction with the town of Aquinnah and the Martha's Vineyard island community to raise approximately $3.5 million to relocate the lighthouse about 129 feet (39 m) from its former location. The lighthouse was relocated by Expert House Movers and the General Contractor, International Chimney.

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