Amplifying Narragansett Voices on Land and Survivance

Exhibition Open: November—December, 2021
URI Feinstein Providence Campus Gallery
80 Washington Street, Providence, RI

Once the site of a Narragansett community, Mashapaug Pond is now “sick” from industrial pollutants.

Courtesy of Holly Ewald.

This map is helpful with geography, but Indigenous nations in New England do not recognize rigid boundaries.
 
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This map is helpful with geography, but Indigenous nations in New England do not recognize rigid boundaries.

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Still Here, in Providence, depicts Narragansett artist Lynsea Montanari holding a portrait of Narragansett/Wampanoag leader Princess Redwing.
 
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Still Here, in Providence, depicts Narragansett artist Lynsea Montanari holding a portrait of Narragansett/Wampanoag leader Princess Redwing.

Courtesy of Gaia Street Art and The Avenue Concept.

The Problem
The Roots
The Solutions

“We, the Narragansett people, continue to exist on this land, the land the Creator set aside for us.” —Elder Dawn Dove

Centuries have passed since the beginning of colonization in the Americas, but the process is ongoing. In Rhode Island, ecological warfare and continued displacement of the Narragansett Nation from their ancestral lands has disrupted their cultural practices.

The dominant historical narrative of Rhode Island fails to recognize the centrality of land to Narragansett lifeways, resulting in disproportionate access to vital natural resources. Despite these traumas, the Narragansett maintain a relationship with their land.

For Native communities, access to clean earth, air, and water is not just about survival but also identity and spirituality. To address environmental issues, we must understand how colonial structures like land ownership, pollution, and resource commodification harm Native communities and Earth. This can happen through Indigenous-centered community activism in Rhode Island and across the nation.

2016: Narragansett community member Christian Hopkin and Tomaquag Museum Director Lorén Spears accept the National Medal for Museum and Library Service from First Lady Michelle Obama.
“Salmon Traveling,” Mashapaug Pond collage by Dawn Dove, Narragansett Elder and artist.
The manufactured nature of India Point Park contrasts with the smokestacks of a nearby power plant in 2013.
Dawn Dove, Narragansett/Niantic Elder, mother, grandmother, and published author and editor, in 2017.
Sherenté Harris, Narragansett youth, Brown University and RISD student, dances in regalia in 2019.
2019: Cassius Spears and the Narragansett Food Sovereignty Initiative are reviving traditional flint corn.
2016: Narragansett community member Christian Hopkin and Tomaquag Museum Director Lorén Spears accept the National Medal for Museum and Library Service from First Lady Michelle Obama.
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2016: Narragansett community member Christian Hopkin and Tomaquag Museum Director Lorén Spears accept the National Medal for Museum and Library Service from First Lady Michelle Obama.

Courtesy of the Institute for Museum and Library Services.

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Tomaquag Museum.

Courtesy of Tomaquag Museum.

“Salmon Traveling,” Mashapaug Pond collage by Dawn Dove, Narragansett Elder and artist.
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“Salmon Traveling,” Mashapaug Pond collage by Dawn Dove, Narragansett Elder and artist.

Courtesy of Dawn Dove, from the book, Through our Eyes: An Indigenous View of Mashapaug Pond.

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Mashapaug Pond: Place of Beauty

By Jack Brook, Jayleen Paula, Daven McQueen, and Sharad Wertheimer.

The manufactured nature of India Point Park contrasts with the smokestacks of a nearby power plant in 2013.
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The manufactured nature of India Point Park contrasts with the smokestacks of a nearby power plant in 2013.

Courtesy of trailsandwalksri.wordpress.com.

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A look into India Point Park

By Aya Bisbee, Stefany Garcia, Alejandra Gonzalez, and Lauren Yamaguchi.

Dawn Dove, Narragansett/Niantic Elder, mother, grandmother, and published author and editor, in 2017.
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Dawn Dove, Narragansett/Niantic Elder, mother, grandmother, and published author and editor, in 2017.

Courtesy of Tomaquag Museum.

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Great Swamp Monument: Commemorating the Great Swamp Massacre of 1675

Great Swamp Monument: Commemorating the Great Swamp Massacre of 1675.

Sherenté Harris, Narragansett youth, Brown University and RISD student, dances in regalia in 2019.
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 Sherenté Harris, Narragansett youth, Brown University and RISD student, dances in regalia in 2019.

Courtesy of Tomaquag Museum.

2019: Cassius Spears and the Narragansett Food Sovereignty Initiative are reviving traditional flint corn.
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2019: Cassius Spears and the Narragansett Food Sovereignty Initiative are reviving traditional flint corn.

Courtesy of the Spears family.

Additional Media

Wawaloam’s Boulders.

By Sarah Clapp and Ryan Saglio.

Additional Media

Enishkeetompauog: The Narragansett Indian Monument.

By Ruth Miller, Marguerite Kemp-Sherman, and Brenna Pisanelli.

Additional Media

Woven in Time: The Narragansett Salt Pond Preserve

Courtesy of Marc Levitt and Rhode Island DOT.

Our Point of View

University Partners
Community Partners

We explored Indigenous survivance in the face of colonial ecological exploitation and violence. Indigenous self-determination and healing entails fighting for access to land and resources, ensuring environmental health, and preserving lifeways. The story of the Narragansett Nation is part of a larger struggle to address historical and ongoing injustices. We claim responsibility to learn about the land on which we live and hope visitors will engage in local struggles for decolonization, environmental justice, and Indigenous rights.

—Brown University

Our mission is to educate the public, promote dialogue regarding Indigenous history, culture and arts, and Mother Earth, and connect to Native issues of today. Our Indigenous Empowerment Network strives to eradicate poverty in the Rhode Island Indigenous community through education, cultural competency, job training, small business incubation, and social justice. This collaboration helps us empower the Native community, create opportunity for Indigenous voices, and mentor students to understand the interrelationship of Indigenous people and the land. Environmental justice and Indigenous Rights are synonymous.

—Tomaquag Museum

Contributors

University Partners

Brown University

Faculty Project Director Ron Potvin
Students Aya Bisbee Jackson Brook Sarah Clapp Stefany Garcia Alejandra Gonzalez Marguerite Kemp-Sherman Daven McQueen Ruth Miller Jayleen Paula Brenna Pisanelli Ryan Saglio Sharad Wertheimer Lauren Yamaguchi

Community Partners

Tomaquag Museum

Lorén Spears