For the second consecutive year, sixth-through-eighth graders from the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe enjoyed a summer science and Wampanoag cultural program to help them reconnect with the ecology and geology of their traditional homelands in southwestern Cape Cod, Massachusetts.
“Native Youth in Science–Preserving Our Homelands” Completes Year Two
For the second consecutive year, sixth-through-eighth graders from the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe enjoyed a summer science and Wampanoag cultural program to help them reconnect with the ecology and geology of their traditional homelands in southwestern Cape Cod, Massachusetts. “Native Youth in Science—Preserving Our Homelands” was organized by the Mashpee Wampanoag Departments of Education and Natural Resources, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Waquoit Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center (WHCMSC) in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. Fifteen students participated in the program, which met 2 days a week for 4 weeks during July 2013.
To demonstrate how science topics learned in school relate to Wampanoag culture and the environmental health of local lands, lessons focused on addressing tribally important sites and topics through the perspectives of both environmental science and tribal culture. This year, the program focused on the importance of environmental quality as related to traditional Wampanoag food sources, including shellfish—such as the quahog (Mercenaria mercenaria), oyster (Crassostrea virginica), and other species—as well as migratory fish species, such as herring (Alosa pseudoharengus).
Each 2-day session involved field trips in which scientists and Wampanoag tribe members collaborated to present specific topics from both Wampanoag and Western science perspectives. Topics included water quality, marsh ecology, fisheries ecology, forest restoration, and glacial geology. Field trips included visits to local wetlands, oyster farms, and waterways. One of the highlights was a hike through the Quashnet River valley, a local river system that is the focus of Federal and State restoration efforts. This hike, led by Jim Rassman of the Waquoit Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve and Earl Mills, Jr. of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, followed the route of the annual herring migration to Johns Pond while taking participants through a range of environments, some restored to their natural state and some still under the influence of human activity.
The science program was organized by Renee Lopez-Pocknett (Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe), Kristen Wyman (Nipmuc, tribal education consultant), Chuckie Green (Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe), Quan Tobey (Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe), Kitty Hendricks (Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe), Ben Gutierrez (USGS-WHCMSC), and Monique Fordham (USGS National Tribal Liaison). Science instructors included Ambrose Jearld of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Marine Fisheries Service Northeast Fisheries Science Center, Jim Rassman of the Waquoit Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, Cara O’Donnell of the Water Resources Department of the Houlton Band of the Maliseet Indians (Littleton, Maine), and Ben Gutierrez of the USGS-WHCMSC. Each scientist worked with Wampanoag culture keepers, who included Chuckie Green, Earl Mills, Jr., and Daryl Wixon. Dann Blackwood (USGS-WHCMSC) was the program photographer and contributed to science instruction as well. The program concluded with an opportunity for the students to explore and celebrate on Washburn Island, which is part of the Waquoit Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve and a historically important site for the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe.