Open Spaces: Restoring Traditions on the Popponesset Bay

Restoring Traditions on the Popponesset Bay

For four thousand years, Popponesset Bay in Massachusetts sustained the Wampanoag people, who harvested its waters for oysters and other shellfish.

Today, the Tribe’s descendants are getting the chance to give back to the Bay. 

In 2009, the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe won a grant through the Tribal Grants Wildlife program for their Popponesset Bay Restoration Project, with the primary objective of creating an oyster farm.

YCC Students assisting Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe Natural Resources Department staffEastern Massachusetts National Wildlife Refuge Complex Summer Youth Conservation Corps assisting Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe Natural Resources Department staff with shellfish operation and maintenance.  Photo Credit:  Kris Clark/MWT

Why an oyster farm?

Oysters are considered a keystone species.  This means they have a disproportionally large effect on their environment in relation to their abundance.

As filter feeders, they siphon the water they live in and, as adults, can filter up to 20 gallons of water a day!

This fall, the Tribe will be selling their First Light Oysters—a fitting name, as Wampanoag means “People of the First Light.”  Proceeds from the sale will be returned to project activities, helping to make the venture self-sustaining.

And their success has encouraged them to go further. The Tribe plans to compete for another grant, and partner with their sister Tribe, the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah), to continue re-establishing oyster populations in Popponesset Bay, and renewing a tradition between the Wampanoag and the Popponesset.

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Last updated: June 21, 2012