Afro-Indigenous TikToker sets record straight about the history of ‘affluent’ Martha’s Vineyard

·3-min read

Kara Roselle Smith (Chappaquiddick Wampanoag), an Afro-Indigenous influencer and model, is educating TikTokers about the little-known Native American history of Martha’s Vineyard — and TikTokers are seriously shocked by the knowledge being dropped.

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Smith, who regularly uses her platforms on both TikTok and Instagram to raise awareness about her Massachusetts-based tribe as well as issues affecting mixed-race Natives, stitches her explanation to an original video from TikToker @claibornebaby.

In the original video, Leah (aka @claibornebaby) shares a video selfie from Martha’s Vineyard with the text, “So you’re telling me this is the airport for this expensive island?” While panning over the area nearby and behind her, Leah shows a small outdoor seating area that includes portable toilets. The trending “I wanna go home” TikTok sound plays over her post.

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“A lot of people don’t know the history of Martha’s Vineyard”

Enter Smith, who in addition to several commenters, explains that not only are there not-so-wealthy locals but there’s also deep Native American history on the Massachusetts island and tribal members who still call Martha’s Vineyard and the nearby Chappaquiddick Island home.

“This is not shade because a lot of people don’t know the history of Martha’s Vineyard, but I’m trying to change that,” Smith said in her TikTok.

She also acknowledges that the island is perhaps better known as a playground for wealthy Americans than it is for its local history and Native roots.

“Multiple times this person said that they were not even aware that the island had locals, let alone Native people, because of how the island has been marketed as a favorite of presidents and affluent people,” she continued.

TikTokers who claimed to be familiar with the island agreed and offered their takes on the “reality versus Instagram” side of the island.

“[M]ost of us that live here are poor babes,” one commenter wrote.

“This is your reminder that those of us who live on the cape and islands year round are struggling to make ends meet,” another wrote.

Smith then explains that the ancestral homeland of the Wampanoag people is Martha’s Vineyard, known to the tribe as Noëpe, meaning “land amid the waters or streams.”

Leah, the original poster, even weighed in after learning about the island’s history.

“Thank you to the locals who are educating me abt this island,” she wrote on her own post. “[A]s a BIPOC woman who doesn’t come from old money, the MV experience is often shown to be catered towards ppl, usually white, who come from a place of wealth.”

Native Americans are still here

If the Wampanoag tribe sounds familiar, TikTokers might remember that it was a “first contact” tribe. The Wampanoags were the first tribe to encounter the Pilgrims when they made their way to Plymouth, Mass., on the Mayflower in the 17th century.

Today the Wampanoag people include multiple tribes, including the Chappaquiddick Wampanoag. And Smith’s mother, Alma Gordon, is the sonksq, or chief, of the Chappaquiddick Wampanoag tribe.

In her TikTok post, Smith reiterates that her tribe is “still here,” a sentiment many Native and Indigenous people feel compelled to share given the arguable lack of visibility in the U.S.

“It is wild that the top question when you Google ‘Chappaquiddick Wampanoag’ is, “Do the Wampanoag still exist?” she said — to which she answered:

“We do.”

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