Native Americans Win Victory at Brown University After Pokanoket Tribe Protest

Brown University has agreed to protect "sacred" Native American lands on its Rhode Island campus as part of a deal to end a monthlong occupation of the land by the Pokanoket tribe.

The tribe vacated its encampment on the 375 acres in Bristol—land that Brown acquired in the 1950s and now houses a museum—after the university agreed to preserve the land in trust for the tribe, which considers it “spiritual high grounds.”

The agreement ends a standoff with the Pokanoket, which began on August 20, when the tribe set up an encampment around the museum, created a roadblock onto the property and marched on campus. The tribe claims the university is on its land, which marks the site of King Philip's beheading in 1676. University officials previously stated that the university had maintained its legal right to the property for more than 60 years. 

 

In the agreement, the university acknowledged the land as sacred, agreed to support the tribe as it manages the trust, and launched a cultural survey to decide on the boundaries of the land.

The property was donated by a wealthy family to the university in the 1950s and is now occupied by the Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology.

"Brown is confident that the parties will work together because there is a strong common interest in preserving this historic land for generations to come,” Russell Carey, executive vice president for planning and policy at Brown, and the principal negotiator for the University, said in a statement.

The Brown agreement comes after several colleges and universities have begun to acknowledge the darker historical implications on which their campuses were constructed. Several Ivy League institutions have already come forward to address their relationships to slavery. Brown, for example, found that the university had financially benefited from the so-called "peculiar institution."

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