Aquinnah is a town located on the island of Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts. The population was 311 at the 2010 U.S. census. It is known for its beautiful clay cliffs and quiet natural serenity, things which have become less common in the heavily populated Northeastern United States. Below the clay cliffs is Jungle Beach, named for the lack of clothing worn. It's one of the few nude beaches left in the U.S. More recently, it has become celebrated as a center of Wampanoag culture and a center of pride and tradition among members of the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head, who make up about one-third of the town's voters. This area is one of the earliest sites of whaling, done from shore by the Wampanoags, long before the 19th century industry of whaling became the major maritime industry of Martha's Vineyard, Nantucket, and New Bedford, Massachusetts.
Before the arrival of English colonists, Aquinnah was inhabited by the Wampanoag, a Native American people, related to the larger Algonquin Nation of Southern New England. Native Aquinnahers have a separate history; their myth has them arriving on an ice floe from the far North, and they sided with the white settlers in King Philip's War. They performed whaling from small boats, and the character Tashtego from the Great American Novel Moby-Dick is a harpooner from Aquinnah.
First settled by English colonists in 1669, it was officially separated from Chilmark and incorporated in 1870 as Gay Head, Massachusetts. Gay Head was a descriptive name referring to the brilliant colors of the cliffs. In 1997, by popular vote of 79 to 21, the town changed its name to Aquinnah, which is Wampanoag for "land under the hill."
Throughout its history, the town has been home to a Wampanoag community which gained federal recognition in 1987 and controls tribal lands in the town.
The most outstanding feature this small town has is its brightly colored clay cliffs. The clay cliffs are ecologically protected, and it is forbidden to climb the cliffs or touch the clay.