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Moshup, a giant that stood taller than the tallest trees, dragged his toe in the soil, and water rushed in behind his great foot, separating what is now Cape Cod from Martha’s Vineyard. The water teemed with life that has sustained the Wampanoag people for generations and is intimately connected to our culture.


The shells from oysters, scallops and clams are used for many things—particularly clam shells to make wampum. We weave it into regalia, give it as gifts, wear it as jewelry, and use it to make art. Wampum is also part of our long oral tradition holding our history and story.


Harvesting scallops, quahogs and oysters brings us together as families, feeding and strengthening community bonds. Shellfish are not just important as a food source --many traditional dishes are built around them -- but they are an essential part of our right to sustainably harvest nourishing food.


Once abundant, shellfish provided a livelihood and independence for many. Today, because of heavy development and degradation of water quality, only a handful of Wampanoag can sustain their family from the land and water. Those traditionalists are devoted to restoring the shellfish beds and stemming the stream of pollutants entering once-healthy ecosystems.


Preserving our natural resources and the balance of nature is central. Shellfish have an important role in maintaining a balance; as one component of clean waters. We face many water quality problems now; for instance, our waters are overloaded with nitrogen.

The Wampanoag Tribes have begun to develop relationships with NOAA, WHOI, and regional conservation groups to improve water quality. These efforts require residents and visitors of Cape Cod to share the responsibility as stewards of this land.