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22 Aug, 2017 21:13

‘Unlawful occupation’: Native Americans seek to reclaim ancestral land from Brown University

‘Unlawful occupation’: Native Americans seek to reclaim ancestral land from Brown University

More than 50 members of the Pokanoket Nation and their supporters have set up an encampment in Rhode Island, arguing that the land bequeathed to Brown University was illegally taken from them hundreds of years ago.

Over a dozen tents have been pitched at Po Metacom Camp on Mount Hope, or Potumtuk, a hill overlooking the Narragansett Bay. The activists have brought in firewood, food and water and set up toilet facilities, according to AP.

The Pokanoket Tribe said they will pray for healing and repatriation of their spiritual lands that they claim “Brown University has been unlawfully occupying,” according to video posted by The Fang Collective on social media on Sunday.

“We would like to sit down with Brown University right here on this property and break bread with them and talk about repatriating the lands back to the stewards of the land, the original peoples, the original inhabitants,” Sagamore William Guy (Po Wauipi Neimpaug) said on the video. A tribe’s sagamore is the chief of chiefs.

“We have done everything to engage with the powers at Brown, and they just do not want to talk to us, so this is the next step in trying to reach out. But they’ve acted as though we are an invisible people, so this time was the only means left open to us,” the sagamore said.

The Pokanoket have a pending lawsuit against Bristol and the state of Rhode Island, and have recorded public and constructive notices to the town authorities, according to EarthFirst.

The tribe claims Brown University does not have an aboriginal title to the land. The Wampanoag chief Metacomet (also known as “King Philip”) and his descendants never signed over their right to the land hundreds of years ago, the Pokanoket said in a statement.

In a statement issued Sunday, the Ivy League university said it upholds the right of people to assembly peaceably “provided that their actions do not infringe upon the rights of others.”

Tribe members and supporters have set up checkpoints at the access road to the 375-acre (152-hectare) parcel, which is located about half an hour's drive from the university campus in Providence. Brown houses an extensive archaeology collection and environmental lab on the grounds.

The university said the land had been donated in parcels over a period of years beginning in the 1950s and it claims the ownership was legally transferred.