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The Town of Aquinnah (previously knows as Gay Head) is unique in being the only community in Massachusetts that continues to have a substantial Indian presence in the 20th century, a presence that continued right through the disruptions and disasters of King Philip's War. The Indians of Aquinnah (previously knows as Gay Head) are thought by some to be related to the mainland Wampanoag tribe, but the natives themselves have a mythic story that describes their arrival on Martha's Vineyard floating on an ice flow from the far North. Whichever way they arrived, their history has been very different from that of mainland tribes. In contrast to the massacres and bloodshed in other communities during King Philip's War when many settlers abandoned their towns altogether as a result of the threat or the reality of Indian attack, in Aquinnah (previously knows as Gay Head), white settlers armed their Indian neighbors and made them the sentries and guards to warn of possible attacking tribes. This responsibility the Indians of Aquinnah (previously knows as Gay Head) carried out faithfully and there was very little if any damage done in the town during those turbulent times. The most outstanding natural feature of Aquinnah (previously knows as Gay Head) is the magnificent display of varicolored clay cliffs in strange formations which spill down to the sea on the border of the town. These cliffs marked the homeward leg of Gay Head's Indian and Yankee fishermen and whalers. The European settlers learned from their Indian neighbors the skills needed for coast-wise whaling and Aquinnahers (previously knows as Gay Head)maintained a shore fishing fleet. From the early 17th century to the last day an American whaler sailed, Aquinnah (previously knows as Gay Head) Indians and Yankees were prominent in whaling. Although much of their fishing and whaling was done in small boats close to shore, Aquinnahers (previously knows as Gay Headers) also sailed with whalers of the Nantucket and New Bedford fleets. The Aquinnah (previously knows as Gay Head) cliffs have also been a source of clay for pottery and of myriads of fossils which show the variety of animal and marine life in earlier ages of the island. The town's history starts very early, since Bartholomew Gosnold sailed into Aquinnah (previously knows as Gay Head) in 1602 and traded for furs with the Indians of the town. Gosnold filled his boat with beaver and muskrat, sassafras and cedar before sailing back to England. When the town was incorporated in 1870, it had already been named an Indian reservation and had established its maritime economy. (Seal supplied by community. Narrative compiled from historical materials)
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