The Wampanoag Tribe receives a donation of 700 pounds of haddock


Members of the Wampanoag community on and off the island will receive 700 pounds of freshly filleted haddock from the Massachusetts Environmental Police as part of a recent food donation.

According to Bret Stearns, the tribe’s natural resources officer, the environmental police have been supporting the Wampanoag tribal community for many years, advocating for subsistence rights and bringing fresh food to tribal citizens. “Mass Environmental Police, Pat Moran and the whole team, Matt Bass, Scott Opie, these are all people we communicate with on a regular basis because there is an interface between the Environmental Police and the tribe in terms of subsistence and harvesting rights in the Commonwealth,” Stearns said. “We’ve had a great relationship with each of them for a number of years.

Through the process of providing food to the Wampanoag community, the Environmental Police have come to understand tribal food distribution programs and the valuable resources they provide to members, according to Stearns.

Stearns pointed to a Times article published in January 2021 where environmental police donated a 700 pound moose to the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) after the animal was struck by a vehicle and determined to be perfectly viable for consumption. “Pat called me right away in the morning, said we had the moose, then he brought it up here with his team, butchered it, and provided it to the members,” said Stearns.

This was another fortuitous situation where Stearns had to act quickly to gain a huge advantage for the tribe. As soon as Moran came into contact with Stearns, he knew he had to find a way to fillet the hundreds of pounds of fish and then store it properly until it was distributed. Stearns didn’t have enough help filleting all the fish, but Stanley Larsen of the Larsen Fish Market was more than willing to take a few days to help cut the fish. In another show of community collaboration, Captain Wes Brighton of the scallop ship Martha Rose allowed environmental police and the tribe to store the fish in his refrigerator space. “It always turns into this really cool community response,” Stearns said. “These are the kind of people who will just cold call me and be like ‘Is there something going on that we need to deal with? We have lobsters, shellfish. Is everything okay with the tribal citizens, and does everyone have enough to eat? It’s really impressive for them to change the trajectory of their day to deliver this fish that is going to feed a lot of the tribesmen. He noted to how much he appreciates the kind gesture and the fact that the Environmental Police always consider the welfare and subsistence rights of the tribe.

According to Stearns, the haddock came from an auction house where they could not be sold at market and were going to waste. Now Stearns is already working to tie the fish to the tribal food distribution network to distribute to hungry people. “The moral of it all is that the relationship we have was really grounded in there being a proper recognition of the tribe’s subsistence rights and the subsistence way of life – you can’t be more grateful than people not only recognize that, but honor it as they did,” Stearns said.


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