The Pokanoket Nation, the Federation of Aboriginal Nations of America (FANA) and the FANG Collective have responded to Brown University’s Native American and Indigenous Studies Initiative letter to University faculty and students that said “the Pokanoket Tribe is not recognized by the federal government or the state, and more importantly is not recognized by the other federally recognized Wampanoag communities.”
The Pokanoket and supporters began occupying the property in Bristol on Mt Hope Bay on Sunday and say they are willing to occupy the land until Brown engages in meaningful dialogue about the rightful ownership of the land.
The response from the Pokanoket Sagamore Po Wauipi Neimpaug took issue with what he called “mistruths and misinformation regarding the Council of Seven Royal House /Pokanoket Tribe/Pokanoket nation.”
The letter from Brown maintained that, “the Pokanoket are a group that claims descent from the line of King Philip (Metacom) after King Philip’s War, and many members of the group may very well have Native ancestry. However, according to historical records used by Mashpee for their language revitalization, the Pokanoket families were taken in by Mashpee after the war, and became a part of their community. There is a delicate yet important technical difference between holding Native ancestry and holding nation status, and that is at the heart of the issue here.”
The Sagamore replied, in part, “The Pokanoket Tribe which was the headship tribe of the largest Indian Nation in Colonial times is appalled with the release of this nonsense. The historical evidence concerning The Pokanoket tribe can be found in the repositories of Yale and Brown Universities and in such standard reference works as Smithsonian Institution handbook of North American Indians, Vol 15. In addition, much detailed information has been passed down from generation to generation in a rigidly kept oral tradition. Interestingly, there is no written record of the word Wampanoag during the first fifty years of encounters with the colonist. The Great Shawnee Chief Tecumseh in his speech to the Choctaws and Chickasaws in the year 1812 asked, ‘Where today are the Pequot the Narragansett’s, the Mohawks, the Pokanoket and many other powerful tribes?’ Chief Tecumseh didn’t ask, ‘Where today are the Wampanoag?'”
The response from FANA, signed by Director General Neesu Wushuwunoag, takes issue with the idea that federal recognition, from the United States government, is required to legitimize the claims of indigenous people.
“First and foremost, all FANA Members Nations are required to demonstrate a lineage and heritage that predates the occupation of the United States government in their ancestral lands. As such, all FANA Member Nations, including the Pokanoket Tribe, categorically reject any form of recognition from any colonial entity as it is a direct affront to the bloodline heritages that each FANA Member Nation possess. Federal recognition is a process that has been instituted by colonial entities to continually subjugate Tribal Nations, to legitimize colonial claims to the aboriginal lands of these tribal nations, and to cause dissension among Tribal Nations. Federal recognition is nothing more than a commercial relationship established between a Tribal Nation and a colonial entity that does away with the aboriginal rights of the contracting tribal nation by instituting the US Congress as the Trust Manager for the Tribe, and is not a relationship that any FANA Member Nation wishes to pursue. Rather than accept any form of recognition, FANA Member Nations have elected to form private foreign American Aborigine Tribal Trusts, in accordance with international Hague Trust Treaty standards, which are acknowledged by US law…
“FANA respectfully requests that the general public and Brown community reach out to their administrative leadership to hold them responsible for the careless manner in which they have haphazardly allowed Brown University faculty to make remarks that are not only false, but hinge upon a direct violation of the inherent Human Right of the Pokanoket Tribe’s to its own self-determination.
“In closing, on behalf of the Federation of Aboriginal Nations of America, we look forward to your continued support of our efforts to promote and protect the human and aboriginal rights of all indigenous nations, both federally recognized and non-federally recognized alike.”
The FANG Collective, a grassroots community organization that has campaigned against fracked gas, cluster bombs and supported the NoDAPL effort, also issued a response.
Brown University’s letter asked that students and employees not “share out any FANG sponsored petitions, fundraising drives, or materials, and that you ask us any questions you may have before sharing out information,” saying, “Local activist organizations such as the FANG Collective (primarily an anti-fracking group) have jumped into supporting and orchestrating the cause without reaching out to Aquinnah, Mashpee, Assonet, Herring Pond Wampanoag, or Narragansett, which is a problem.”
The FANG Collective responded, saying that the group “supports all indigenous struggle for sovereignty and all indigenous struggle to resist colonization in all its forms. We support both federally recognized and non-federally recognized tribes in these efforts…
“The FANG Collective has been meeting on a regular basis with the Federation of Aboriginal Nations of America (FANA) and the Pokanoket Nation for nearly a year. We were asked directly by the leadership of FANA, the Pokanoket Nation to support their efforts for self-determination and sovereignty. We are honored to be a part of the Po Metacom Camp and to have earned the trust of the Pokanoket Nation.
“Over the past four years the FANG Collective has reached out to the Rhode Island Indian Council, the Narragansett Tribe (some members of the tribe have been speakers at FANG events), the Mashpee Wampanoag and other nations in the Northeast in regards to potential impacts on tribal sites from Spectra’s fracked-gas pipeline and other infrastructure projects. FANG has supported indigenous movements whenever called upon, dedicating our time, resources and putting our bodies on the line to support these struggles. Our organization has has given everything we have to fight to protect the land called Rhode Island and the communities that inhabit it with even less resources than Brown has at their disposal.
“We are shocked and deeply disappointed that Brown University would openly attack our organization and attempt to discredit our work and sacrifice. We are even more disappointed that Brown University would publicly attack the Pokanoket Nation and challenge their legitimacy. This reckless behavior that upholds the legacy of white supremacy and colonization is unacceptable and must not be tolerated.”
You can read the full response from the Pokanoket Tribe here.
You can read the full response of FANA here.
You can read the full response of the FANG Collective here.