On Sunday, August 20th, 2017, the Pokanoket Nation launched an encampment at Potumtuk in Bristol, Rhode Island to reclaim their sacred land from Brown University. Members of the Tribe along with allies set up camp on the land with the goal of having Brown University give back the land to the Pokanoket Nation. This encampment has been named the Po Metacom Camp.
This land, known as Potumtuk, was a significant cultural, political and spiritual center for the Pokanoket prior to european colonization. It is where Metacom, also known to the Europeans as King Philip, was gruesomely killed at the end of King Philip’s War, 1675-78. In the aftermath the Pokanoket were prohibited from identifying themselves as Pokanoket. If they did, they would be killed on the spot. Many of our people were forced to flee or sent away as slaves.
Brown University does not have an Aboriginal Title to the land, because King Philip’s ancestral line has never signed over their right to the land. This territory was “donated” to Brown University by the Haffenreffer family in the 1950’s. The tribe has gone to the courts to make known their legal standing and the Pokanoket Nation’s rightful land ownership; the Tribe has a lawsuit seeking pending against the town of Bristol and the State of Rhode Island and has issued Public and Constructive Notices to the town of Bristol. In 2015 the Pokanoket Tribe raised the Pokonoket Flag declaring their right to the land. Response to their communications has been delayed for too long.
As a result of the ongoing neglect of the environmental needs of Sowams and due to the Tribe’s historic significance to and aboriginal relationship with the land, the Pokanoket tribe is taking the lead to ensure that Sowams is properly reconstituted to its pristine, healthy and productive environmental state, creating a sustainable habitat for the local wildlife and surrounding local community.
The Pokanoket Tribe are the people who welcomed the Pilgrims to this country when they were seeking religious freedom. Yet the Pokanoket have been unable to practice their own spiritual and cultural traditions without asking permission to access their own ancestral lands.
Please support them in their efforts to repatriate their rightful land!