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Nantucket /ˌnænˈtʌkɨt/ is an island 30 miles (48 km) south of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, in the United States. Together with the small islands of Tuckernuck and Muskeget, it constitutes the town of Nantucket, Massachusetts, and the coterminous Nantucket County, which are consolidated. As of the2010 census, the population was 10,172. Part of the town is designated the Nantucket CDP, or census-designated place. The region of Surfside on Nantucket is the southernmost settlement in Massachusetts.
The name, Nantucket, is adapted from similar Algonquian names for the island, perhaps meaning “faraway land or island”. Nantucket is a tourist destination and summer colony. The population of the island increases to about 50,000 during the summer months, due to tourists and seasonal residents. In 2008, Forbes Magazine cited Nantucket as having home values among the highest in the US. The National Park Service cites Nantucket, designated a National Historic Landmark District in 1966, as being the “finest surviving architectural and environmental example of a late 18th- and early 19th-century New England seaport town”.
Nantucket probably takes its name from a Wampanoag word, transliterated variously as natocke, nantaticu, nantican, nautica or natockete, which is part of Wampanoag lore about the creation of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. The meaning of the term is uncertain, although it may have meant “in the midst of waters,” or “far away island.” Wampanoag is an Eastern Algonquian language of southern New England.
The earliest French settlement in the region began on the neighboring island of Martha’s Vineyard. Nantucket Island’s original Native American inhabitants, the Wampanoag people, lived undisturbed until 1641 when the island was deeded by the English (the authorities in control of all land from the coast of Maine to New York) to Thomas Mayhew and his son, merchants from Watertown, Massachusetts, and Martha’s Vineyard. Nantucket was part of Dukes County, New York, until 1691, when it was transferred to the newly formed Province of Massachusetts Bay and split off to form Nantucket County. As Europeans began to settle Cape Cod, the island became a place of refuge for Native Americans in the region, as Nantucket was not yet settled by Europeans. The growing population welcomed seasonal groups of other Native Americans who traveled to the island to fish and later harvest whales that washed up on shore.