Juli Vanderhoop moved back to the Island 20 years ago for the community, she told a group of 30 people Friday at the Martha’s Vineyard Museum as part of a monthly series of lunch-time conversations. Her talk centered around community, the importance of respecting the Island’s historic land and creating pathways for younger Wampanoag people to stay on the Island so that those values remain.

Ms. Vanderhoop, an Aquinnah select board member and owner of Orange Peel Bakery, said that growing up as part of the Wampanoag tribe in Aquinnah, she could ride her bike around town by herself when she was five years old and her parents never had to worry about her safety. She was one of 24 students at the Chilmark School, which meant she knew everyone intimately. She came back to the Vineyard so her children, Ella and Emerson, could have the same experience.

“This was a place that afforded me a lot of freedoms that I couldn’t give to my children otherwise,” Ms. Vanderhoop said.

Her talk focused on the importance of giving the next generation the ability to live on the Island. — Ray Ewing

The Wampanoag people have for centuries been stewards of the land, which makes it even more important that they can afford to stay on it, she added.

“If you don’t have the opportunity to know where your homeland is, to know where your feet connect with the earth and the energy that comes to you because of that, then you lose an understanding of the world in general around you,” she said.

Ms. Vanderhoop said she feels a responsibility as a business owner and select board member to help the next generation. She spends a lot of time talking to young tribal members about finding ways to make enough money to stay on the Island.

“I’m hell-bent on helping in whatever way I can,” she said.

She recalled once attending a potluck dinner while visiting a friend in Europe. The invitation was open to anyone in the community, and strangers laughed and talked together through the night. The event became the inspiration for starting pizza nights at Orange Peel to bring Islanders together in a similar way, sharing community and pizza toppings. Pizza nights had such a big impact on her son Emerson that he wrote his college admissions essay about the people he met there, Ms. Vanderhoop said.

“The community is what we’ve always known and what we’ve always gathered for,” she said.

Ms. Vanderhoop feels a spiritual connection to the land, she said. Orange Peel Bakery sits in an area known to the tribe as Black Brook, which she said is where the spirits are. During busy days of baking, when she’s stressed and tired, she often asks for signs that her ancestors are listening.

“There’s so many signs that I always see,” she said. “If you’re thinking about it, if you’re willing these things to come to you, then they will.”

In order to emphasize that connection and showcase the Island’s natural beauty, Ms. Vanderhoop said she has never put a roof over the oven or seating area at Orange Peel.

“What I really want to exemplify to people is that why we come here is not for our homes. It’s for this earth that’s under our feet.”