Hunting, Fishing, Gathering
Tribal sustenance use of natural resources is critical to the economic and cultural life of the Tribe. For thousands of years, the Tribe lived off the bounty of Martha’s Vineyard and the surrounding waters. While society is no longer arranged to necessitate a close link with nature, Tribal life benefits from use of natural resources for food, economic benefit, and cultural purposes.
Hunting is both culturally and socially important to the Tribe. The Natural Resources Department manages the hunting seasons on Tribal lands, which are different than that of the State in duration and time of year. The department runs a deer check station for the Massachusetts Division of Fish and Wildlife. It is the duty of this station to provide hunters with assistance in the processing of wild game to be inspected and tagged in accordance with state law. When deer are brought to the check station, information about the deer is recorded such as age, sex, weight. This data is used to better manage the deer population on Martha’s Vineyard.
The Natural Resources Department supports the Massachusetts Hunter Safety Program each year by serving as instructors and providing training aids for Island students.
Fishing and shellfishing are also critical to Tribal members, and the Tribe helps to monitor the health of those stocks, including conducting studies of heavy metals and other contaminants in fish and shellfish tissue.
Gathering of fruits and other vegetation is also important to Tribal identity. Cranberry Day, the third Tuesday every October, is a celebration of the fall harvest. The Natural Resources Department maintains the naturally occurring cranberry bogson the Common Lands in Lobsterville to promote this harvest. Tribal members also harvest blueberries, beach plums, sassafras, hazelnuts, and many other items from Tribal Lands, and the Natural Resources Department supports and encourages this activity as a way for Tribal members to better know their Tribal Lands and their cultural heritage.