Granny Squannit and Moshup our forever folklore cultural heros to the Mashpee Wamps and Aquinnah Wamps have been watching and protecting the herring.
Aspao, legend maiden of the Mashpee’s loved to sing. Each season she sat on the log and sang near the river. The herring in the herring run would listen and wiggle their gray tails. She made them excited and happy.
Although it has been cold, cousin herring still migrate up our rivers. They soon are leaving the Atlantic Ocean to come home to retire as some of them will. Us folks love smoked herring, fried roe, pickled herring, fried herring. Oh! Where’s the corn meal?
Danny Tavares (Eagle Feather) says “Once the river was black, I could catch them with my hands when I was young. Now most are gone, makes me sad.”
Natasha Jonas mentions “The herring run is always a fun childhood memory. I loved to go down there with my dad, sisters and brother. We would catch some when they were big enough. After, go home and my dad would fry up the roe. I remember them tasting gritty, but he seasoned them up and they were good. I feel connected to the land while catching herring, being in nature and watching them jump up stream it’s a beautiful memory. This spring I plan on bringing my daughters down to the herring run. We’ll have to invite Papa too!”
Richard (Huck) Mills (1914-1990) recalled when Mr. Tom Mingo caught the herring and scaled them. It is said he sold the scales to non-Natives so they could make imitation pearls. Can you imagine that? Herring were bigger and oily in those early days.
Medicine Man, Earl (Soaring Eagle) Cash, Jr., notes “We have been having a ceremony for years in honor of the herring when I was younger the women brought food to the ceremony and declared “Happy New Year, Spring is here!”
Deacon Wayne Jackson (Big Oak) mentions, when he was younger he saw non-Native people coming to the river with fishing rods. “We catch herring with the fishing net! This is a tradition we need to retain.”
Oh jeepers, Minister Freddie Gray (Standing Oak) jumped off the Mashpee Wampanoag Transportation bus and tells us “There is nothing under the sun which will move around as is the new life journey of the might herring!”
Lillian Bento, 91 of Falmouth (my rehab roommate), says her husband would take her years ago to Mashpee herring run. They would watch them, “There were many, many!” She looked forward to seeing them for many years and still asking about them. She has a memory like the herring!
Honorable Chief Vernon Lopez (Silent Drum) recalls, “Some seventy years ago when grandpa (Uncle George) would come to the river with his horse and wagon. There was a handmade box made with netting and cedar poles. He would drop it in the river to catch herring. Grandpa would then go around and give herring to gardeners for fertilizer. Also he would give to fishermen from New Bedford for bait. We lived by the river all my life and love it.”
Chief is now 96 years young. The spirit of the herring, ancestors and cultural traditional folklore is loved.
Karl Mills simply told me, just a few days ago, “I want some fried herring and fried herring roe now Bird!”
By Aunt Joan