Jeanette Vanderhoop: Celebrating Our Connection to the Land
Jannette Vanderhoop, founder and owner of Island Naturals, is a talented jewelry maker and designer. She hails from the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) on Martha’s Vineyard (Noepe) in Massachusetts, where for at least 25,000 years the ancestors of Wampanoag people have lived, pursuing a traditional economy based on fishing, horticulture, and wild harvest. Her modus operandi is to educate people to respect nature and Native Peoples through art. “My work is a form of environmental expression. By utilizing parts of the natural world, including found and reconstituted materials, there is no lack of inspiration or originality,” she says.
Made by hand one at a time, each jewelry piece is unique and cannot be duplicated. Using locally sourced wampum shells from the rugged coastline of Martha’s Vineyard, Vanderhoop’s colorful jewelry is appreciated for both its eccentricity and simplicity. She also makes Native–themed crafts from natural found and reconstituted materials. “I mean to inspire both the wearer and the viewer and connect them to the essence of the sea,” she says. Vanderhoop’s work is recognizable and sought after by collectors. She has sold over 200 of her signature, one of a kind wampum necklaces to visitors and collectors from all over the world. “My desire is to fight stereotypes as they relate to Native people, Native American jewelry, and Indigenous fashion specifically. My work is decidedly contemporary.”
Europeans reached Noepe 400 years ago, and increasingly English settlements on the island impacted the Indigenous oceangoing communities through land theft, religious persecution, violence, debt servitude, and disease. In the past century, more Native land has been stolen as Tribal members have faced economic pressure to sell their land and leave the island altogether. The Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe finally received federal recognition in 1987, however, the Tribe continues the fight to protect their rights as a sovereign Nation. “I started my jewelry business, Island Naturals, in 2006. I sell my work at the Martha’s Vineyard Artisans Festival in the summers. I am honored as the first and only Aquinnah Wampanoag member to be included in this juried show. I have mastered concepts of color, design and shape and have created a signature for my work over the course of 12 years,” Vanderhoop says.
A woman of many talents, Vanderhoop owns and operates three businesses. “I am an artist, a yoga instructor, and a master gardener. I was the first of my family to ever go to college as a Gates Millennium Scholar through American Indian Graduate Center. I hold a bachelor’s degree from Pitzer College in Environmental Studies and Art.” Vanderhoop is also a published author and illustrator and educator of Wampanoag history, culture, and arts. She says, “I have dedicated my life to revitalizing my heritage. I have run children’s programs for my Tribe and got our museum, the Aquinnah Cultural Center, up and going. I also currently teach yoga to my Tribal people under a diabetes prevention program. I visit schools and museums as a presenter and work with children and adults of all ages teaching nature-based themes. My passion is creating and teaching arts that specifically connect people to land and place. Through my work, I hope to put the Aquinnah Wampanoag people on the map as significant contributors to contemporary Indigenous arts.”
All photos by Jannette Vanderhoop.
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