Sagamore Po Wauipi Neimpaug released a statement Tuesday afternoon in response to the deal struck between the Pokanoket Tribe and Brown university over land in Bristol, Rhode Island. The Pokanokets set up the Pometacom camp to occupy the disputed land on August 30. Yesterday, Brown University announced an agreement had been reached and that the camp would disperse.
Today’s statement from the Pokanokets is in agreement with Brown’s statement yesterday, though the Sagamore wanted to clarify “certain elements… 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.”
Near the end the Sagamore makes clear the difficulties many indigenous people face when working with institutions established by colonizers, writing:
“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 contemporaneously 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.”
The Sagamore’s statement can be read in its entirety here:
“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 Brown University 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 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 contemporaneously 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.”