This past Monday was Indigenous’ Peoples Day. Let us for a moment, remember the history of Chappaquiddick, an island named for the Wampanoag word tchepi-aquidenet, meaning “separate island”. When white settlers arrived on Martha’s Vineyard (called Noepe by the Wampanoag) in the 1600’s, the island was already home to roughly 3,000 indiginous people. This included around 140 members of the Chappaquiddick Wampanoag tribe.

Conflict quickly arose and eventually in 1788 the government relegated the Chappaquiddick Wampanoag to two reservations on Chappy, giving the much larger portion to white landowners. The reservation land, totalling 800 acres, included a large area north of what is now Chappaquiddick Road and a smaller parcel to the south, known as the Woodland Reservation.

In 1869, with the passing of the Massachusetts Indian Enfranchisement Act, the reservation was divided among individual Wampanoag members. Over the next four centuries, this land would be lost as these individuals sold their parcels, either by choice or by force because of taxation and debts. It was a slow and often indirect land theft spread out over generations.

The Aquinnah and Maspee Wampanoag were able to hold onto some of their communal land in large part because the towns were incorporated in the 1870’s. Nearly all the residents were tribal members and therefore held places of leadership. Chappaquiddick, however, fell under Edgartown jurisdiction where white colonialists vastly outnumbered Chappaquiddick Wampanoag tribal members.

Today, the Chappaquiddick Wampanoag meet annually to honor their tribe and their land. If you are interested in learning more about the tribe, you can visit their website at

With the changing of the seasons, as days grow shorter and the light weaker, I am reminded of one of my family’s favorite children’s books about a little mouse named Frederick. In summer and fall, his friends are busy collecting grain and seeds and nuts for a long winter. But to the chagrin of the other mice, Frederick merely sits, dozing in the sunshine. He tells his friends: “I gather sun rays for the cold dark winter days.” Then they find him gazing at a meadow and he declares: “I gather colors, for winter is gray.” When they catch him half asleep and ask if he is dreaming, his response is: “Oh no, I am gathering words. For the winter days are long and many, and we’ll run out of things to say.”

Winter arrives and the mice quickly go through their store of seeds and nuts and grain. With empty bellies, cold toes and grumpy minds, they remember Fredericks words. They turn to him and ask if he will share his harvest. He describes the glow of an afternoon sun, and the mice warm. He shares the colors he gathered — images of periwinkles and poppies, wheat and leaves — and all the mice can see the colors too. Finally, he spins a yarn of the beauty of each passing season, supplying cheer and hope to carry the mice through until spring.

As I move through these October days, sometimes I try to be like Frederick. I sit on our stoop gathering sunshine, appreciating its warmth. My daughter and I linger near meadows, collecting bouquets of goldenrod and asters to bring home for our windowsill. As I harvest vegetables and flowers from our greenhouse and fields, I try to capture the feel of each bloom, the vibrancy of each red radish, images that I can call upon when all is grey this winter.

It is bound to be a particularly challenging winter for many. I hope the sunrays, colors and stories will carry you through.