PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — On Wednesday, Aug. 30, Brown University proposed a path forward toward an agreement with the Pokanoket tribe, which established an encampment on Brown-owned property in Bristol, R.I., on Sunday, Aug. 20. On Thursday, Aug. 31, the Pokanokets refused the proposed path forward.
Brown issued the following statement at approximately 4:45 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 31. Previous Brown statements related to the encampment can be viewed here.
Brown Statement on Proposed Path Forward with the Pokanoket
Brown University is committed to a respectful process that resolves the Pokanoket encampment and addresses the future stewardship, conservation, preservation and sustainable access to the Haffenreffer / Mt. Hope property in Bristol, Rhode Island. Toward this end, the University has proposed a plan that respects the interests of the Pokanokets, as well as the interests of the multiple Native peoples with historical connections to Brown’s property.
The University is deeply concerned and saddened that this plan — as well as all efforts and entreaties to work toward an inclusive resolution — has been refused by the Pokanoket, based on their contention that other Native tribes do not have a legitimate interest in or a connection with this land.
The Pokanokets established their encampment on Sunday, Aug. 20, 2017. Representatives from Brown met with the Pokanoket leadership on Tuesday, Aug. 22, and were presented with documents that demanded that the University grant them exclusive ownership of the Brown-owned Mt. Hope property. These documents had not been previously sent to Brown, and the Pokanokets have acknowledged publicly that Brown had no previous knowledge of their efforts to work with the State of Rhode Island to secure title to the land. Brown has record title to and ownership of the land, which was donated to the University by the Haffenreffer family beginning in the 1950s. It houses a museum, research center and nature preserve.
The University met again with the Pokanoket leaders on Aug. 28 to better understand their concerns. On Aug. 30, the University presented the Pokanokets with a “Path Forward Principles and Parameters” document. It outlines a proposed process to develop and implement a plan for the Brown property in Bristol that ensures conservation, preservation and sustainable access to Native tribes with ties to the property.
Key aspects of the plan include the following:
- “a consultative process … that respects the historical interests of the various Native peoples related to this land”;
- “conservation and preservation of, and sustainable access to, the historically significant and sacred sites on the property in a manner that is beneficial and respectful to the Native peoples that are related to this land, to the University, and to other stakeholders”;
- “consultation and engagement with all Native peoples with an interest and stake in the past, present and future of the Bristol property,” consistent with principles of open access to Native peoples;
- “a thorough cultural and environmental resource survey, including oral history, geographical information, and archeological and historical research, of the Bristol property;”
- development of “consensus recommendations for the future of the property”;
- Brown’s commitment to provide funding and staff to carry out the process; and
- an end to the encampment to initiate this process.
Brown is disappointed that the Pokanokets (responding through legal counsel) have asserted that they are not concerned about the claims of other tribes to the land, and that such claims are “totally wrong.” The encamped Pokanokets have proposed another meeting to take place soon, and Brown is committed to further discussions with the hope of reaching agreement about a stewardship approach that is inclusive of the Native peoples that have a historical connection to the Bristol property.
Unfortunately, the modern Pokanoket group refuses to recognize the connection of the other peoples to the land, and that is something Brown does not find ethical or acceptable as owners and stewards of the Bristol property.