Statment from the Pokanoket Tribe Regarding the Agreement with
September 26, 2017
After much negotiation the Pokanoket Tribe of the Pokanoket Nation is pleased to announce that on Thursday September 21st, 2017, on the United Nations International Day of Peace, a preliminary agreement was signed with Brown University to begin the process of transference of the ancestral lands of Potumtuk into the rightful and lawful stewardship of the Pokanoket Tribe. The Pokanoket Tribe would like to extend sincere thanks and gratitude to all of the Tribal Members, supporters and allies who have faithfully supported the Tribe’s efforts, and would like to also commend Brown University for taking the proper and first steps of acknowledging the Pokanoket Tribe of the Pokanoket Nation for their historicity, ongoing presence upon and lawful ties to their ancestral lands of Potumtuk.
In accordance with the requirements of the Tribe, and in order to officially begin the process outlined in the agreement, Brown University released an official statement on Monday September 25th, 2017 that spoke to the details of the agreement. While Brown University’s official statement touches upon the key elements of the agreement, the Pokanoket Tribe feels that there are certain elements that should be clarified so that the general public will more fully understand the basis for the Pokanoket Tribe’s willingness to engage with Brown University in this regard.
First and foremost, and as has been the request of the Pokanoket Tribe since negotiations with Brown University were initiated, the Pokanoket Tribe has agreed to engage with the other Tribes claiming ties to the land in so much as they can prove a significant and substantial relationship to the Pokanoket royal bloodlines and historic, specific and documented connection to the lands of Potumtuk. This will be accomplished by convening a meeting with the other Tribes who have made such claims, which will afford these Tribes the opportunity to substantiate their claims and demonstrate their clear and historic connections to these lands and bloodlines. For Tribes who can historically and without question demonstrate these connections, engagement and access to the lands will be afforded in accordance with traditional tribal customs and will respect traditional tribal relationships with ancestral tribal lands. Specifically, and as was expressed during the tenure of negotiations with Brown University, the Pokanoket Tribe holds several traditional ceremonies and social gatherings throughout the year, which do include the annual Renewal of the Covenant, Strawberry Moon Festival, honoring of the death of PoMetacom and others, which the Pokanoket Tribe has and will continue to amicably invite these and other Tribes, and in certain instances members of the general public, to participate in and support. The Pokanoket Tribe remains steadfast in its position that Tribal customs and traditions will dictate how this process plays out, and expects that all of the Tribes that step forward to customs and traditions as they pertain to stewardship of ancestral tribal lands. As detailed in the agreement, that they were in prior to their unlawful transference by the Plymouth Bay Colony in the late 1600s. As such, transference to such an entity is in line with the overall goals of the Tribe and allows the Pokanoket Tribe to cooperatively participate in such a process will also and proactively respect tribal traditions, customs and relationships in this regard.
Secondly, the Preservation Trust or similar entity that will be created to preserve the sacred lands of Potumtuk will be chartered by the Pokanoket Tribal Trust and will be maintained and governed by a Board appointed by the Tribal Council of the Pokanoket Tribe. This process will begin after the initial convening of the Tribes who have claimed a historic connection to the lands of Potumtuk, and will once again respect and honor traditional tribal customs and traditions as they pertain to stewardship of ancestral tribal lands. As detailed in the agreement, Brown University has chosen to honorably respect this process and the sovereignty of the Pokanoket Tribe by refraining from interfering in the process as it develops, as expressed by the agreement language which states “The onus is on the Pokanoket Tribe currently encamped on the Mt. Hope property and the other tribes who are willing to cooperatively engage in good faith, with the assistance of a mediator, if necessary, to determine and agree upon a viable governance and organizational structure that will enable the University to transfer the to-be-determined amount of land into the preservation trust,”. For clarity’s sake, the Pokanoket Tribe wishes to reiterate and make abundantly clear that the intention of the Tribe is solely to preserve the sacred and ancestral lands of Potumtuk in a manner that will ensure their longevity and return them as closely to the pristine state of being that they were in prior to their unlawful transference by the Plymouth Bay Colony in the late 1600s. As such, transference to such an entity is in line with the overall goals of the Tribe and allows the Pokanoket Tribe to present a model that can be employed by other Tribes and Nations who may engage in similar negotiations with other colonial entities in the future.
Thirdly, and with the clear intent of developing better relationships with the neighboring Bristol County community, the Pokanoket Tribe has agreed to the transfer of a significant and substantial amount of lands that both respects the Tribe’s traditional and ancestral connection with Potumtuk while also recognizing that members of the Bristol Community, Brown University included, have over time also developed strong ties and connections to the lands of Potumtuk. As such, the Pokanoket Tribe has agreed to allow Brown University to conduct a land survey and cultural resource survey of the lands that were transferred to them, to ensure that the lands transferred are not only appropriate for and adhere to the traditional and tribal requirements expressed by the Pokanoket Tribe, but do also honor the preservation goals of Brown University as well as the historical relationship of and developing relationship with the neighboring Bristol Community.
Fourth, as the process develops, the Pokanokets have maintained their right to retain cultural access to the lands for the purposes of conducting religious ceremony, to protect against the continued desecration of sacred tribal gravesites and to maintain a cultural presence on the lands. This step is taken in accordance with both International and Federal law; specifically the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, the Organization of American States American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, the of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), 25 U.S.C. 3001 et seq., Amendment, the Religion Clauses Article VI of United States Constitution, the American Indian Religious Freedom and Restoration Act, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, the National Historic Preservation Act, Executive Order 13007, and ARTICLE IV. – HISTORICAL AND ARCHAEOLOGICAL CEMETERIES AND BURIAL SITES – Town of Bristol of the Rhode Island General Laws Title 23, Chapter 18. As such, and as is our lawful and legal right to do, the Pokanoket Tribe will maintain an appropriate and consistent presence on the lands of Potumtuk as the process with Brown University progresses.
Lastly, the Pokanoket Tribe would like to make it abundantly clear that it has agreed to these terms so long as the process is conducted in a good faith, honest, lawful and proactive manner by Brown University. As a sign of good faith that the process will be implemented in such a manner and to demonstrate the Tribe’s willingness to engage in such a fashion, the Tribe has agreed to remove the PoMetacom encampment while the process is underway. Although the Tribe is fully aware of the very sorted and disingenuous history that Tribal Nations, particularly those in the Eastern Woodlands, have suffered through in official dealings with European structures and institutions since colonization began in the lands contemporarily referred to as North America, the Pokanoket Tribe is willing to extend an olive branch and take a first step forward in developing a stronger, more respectful and more honorable relationship with Brown University by taking this action. Despite the full awareness that similar efforts in the past have resulted in disingenuous engagement and an exhibition of lack of honor, the Pokanoket Tribe does not wish to allow a negative past to be the sole or determining factor for the steps that it will take to ensure a brighter future for its next generations.
In closing, the Pokanoket Tribe wishes to once again extend our most sincere and heartfelt gratitude to all who have and continue to support our efforts to repatriate the ancestral lands of Potumtuk. The Pokanoket Tribe is thankful that Creator has allowed our Tribal Nation to set the tone and to serve as a historic model and motivation for the development of a new and productive relationship between colonial institutions, entities and governments and the sovereign Tribal Nations whose ancestral lands they have come to call home, that is based upon respect, honor, truthful history and lawfulness.
In Peace, Harmony and Balance,
Po Wauipi Neimpaug
Statement of Support from Direct Action for Rights and Equality
In solidarity with the Po Metacom Camp and The FANG Collective, from the DARE Board:
September 12, 2017
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.
DARE writes in recognition of this effort to decolonize Potumtuk and return sovereignty to the hands of the Pokanoket Nation. We are especially proud to support an action in our home state that directly affects our own members, several of whom are participating in this action as Pokanoket tribal members and as allies.
DARE understands this struggle for indigenous land rights as deeply intertwined with our long fight to end racialized displacement in Rhode Island. Centuries of wealth hoarding, policing, and gentrification by Brown University have robbed many low-income Rhode Islanders of their homes, too. We stand with the Pokanoket in the work of holding this institution accountable. We condemn the efforts of Brown University administrators and professors to not only discredit the tribe’s historical and moral right to the land but also denigrate FANG Collective, which has spent years building strong relationships with local organizers and BIPOC communities in Rhode Island. That Native American and Indigenous Studies at Brown would ask university members to withhold funding from the Pokanoket Nation and local organizers suggests deep thoughtlessness about how this university has accumulated its wealth at the expense of surrounding communities.
DARE’s powerful community will continue to support the Po Metacom Camp and the work of FANG Collective. We urge Brown University to recognize the Pokanoket Nation’s right to the land by promptly returning Potumtuk to its rightful stewards. We stand firm with the Pokanoket Nation!
September 6th Statement from Po Wauipi Neimpaug,
Sagamore of the Pokanoket Nation
In response to inquiries regarding Brown University’s August 31st, 2017 public statement, the Pokanoket Tribe has indeed turned down the first proposal that was offered by the University. The Pokanoket Tribe was concerned with the assertion that while in its own ancestral lands other tribes, most of whom have already been designated reservation lands for their own administration and use, would be able to dictate when and how the Pokanoket Tribe would steward its own ancestral lands. For those who are familiar with traditional tribal law and relations, a sovereign Tribe or Nation is imbued with the right to make decisions about its own lands free from interference by other tribes, nations or entities. The Pokanoket Tribe stands by and upholds this right.
Since the August 31st response the Pokanoket Tribe held a third meeting with officials from Brown University on Friday September 1st, 2017 to continue the process of negotiating an amicable resolution to the Po Metacom encampment of the lands of Potumtuk. Ongoing dialogue with Brown University was initially believed to be quite productive and the Pokanoket Tribe believed that they and Brown University were much closer to negotiating a mutually acceptable agreement that would satisfy both the Pokanoket Tribe and Brown University’s interests in this matter. However recent communications from Brown, including emails sent out to their own student body on September 2nd, 2017 and pamphlets passed out by Brown faculty to new students during commencement on September 5th, 2017, are forcing the Pokanoket Tribe to reassess Brown University’s good faith commitment.
Since the August 28th 2017 meeting the Pokanoket Tribe has repeatedly requested that Brown University convene a meeting with the Tribes that have expressed claims to the lands of Potumtuk. These Tribes include the Mashpee, Gay Head, Aquina and Assonet tribes of Wampanoag heritage to once and for all lay the controversy to rest over who the proper, historical and rightful stewards of the lands of Potumtuk are. While Brown University has verbally agreed to convene this meeting at the request of the Pokanoket Tribe, the University has also disingenuously continued to publicly present the Pokanoket Tribe as an unwilling partner in these regards, rather than the instigators of this meeting. In this capacity, the Pokanoket Tribe does now publicly request that Brown University convene said meeting so that this controversy can be laid to rest for once and for all.
In closing, the Pokanoket Tribe would like to extend sincere gratitude to all who have continued to support their lawful right to reclaim their ancestral lands, and is confident that a positive and productive resolution will soon be reached that will both uphold the law and preserve the Pokanoket Tribe’s ancestral lands for now and for future generations.
Po Wauipi Neimpaug
Sagamore of the Pokanoket Nation
August 27th Statement from Po Wauipi Neimpaug,
Sagamore of the Pokanoket Nation
After much reflection I would like to make a statement in regards to Brown University’s so-called expert “knowledge” of my people. I am not surprised at the statements that Brown University has made in regards to our people as a result of us standing on our sacred land. It is once again the colonial tactic of divide, conquer and confuse indigenous peoples.
Our history is an oral history, this is the way of our people. Brown University’s statement is without merit and based on historical misinformation. We refuse to be forced to justify our tribal status or conform to how any institution sees fit to define who we are. It is not up to any institution to tell indigenous people who are not federally recognized that they are not a tribe. Nor is it the call of any group connected to them by being on their payroll or by receiving other benefits to make this call. Furthermore, there is an obvious conflict of interest by peoples whose welfare and dependence on federal authorities to make that call either. Most tribes in this land are not federally recognized and their existence is not based on the whims of Brown University or any institution’s stamp of approval.
We stand firm in our knowledge of what has been passed down to us by our ancestors. We have held strong and will continue to do so. We thank those who have seen beyond this divisive tactic and support us. We ask our brothers and sisters who have questions to cut out the white man, his ways, his tactics, and his institutions. Contact us – indigenous to indigenous. Come let us make a tobacco offering and sit around the sacred fire. This is the way of our people.
Po Wauipi Neimpaug
Sagamore of the Pokanoket Nation
August 27th Statement from Chief Sequan Pijaki and the Pocasset Tribe
August 25th Statement from the Pokanoket Nation
August 25th Statement from the Federation of Aboriginal Nations of America
August 25th Statement from the FANG Collective