University commemorates Indigenous Peoples’ Day

Today, the University community commemorates Indigenous Peoples’ Day–a time to reflect on the centuries of grave injustice, violence, trauma and genocide that Native peoples have endured, and to consider our institutional and individual commitments to our Native students, staff, and faculty.

We begin by acknowledging that the University of Rhode Island occupies the traditional homelands of the Narragansett Nation. What is now the state of Rhode Island occupies the traditional homelands and waterways of the Narragansett Nation and the Niantic, Wampanoag, and Nipmuc Peoples. The University honors and respects the enduring and continuing relationship among these nations and this land by teaching and learning more about their histories and present-day communities, and by becoming stewards of the land we, too, inhabit.

As a land grant institution, URI has a particular obligation to access, inclusion, and equity. This summer, members of the Native American Advisory Council worked closely with University leaders to establish two fundamental initiatives: the Native Youth College Prep Program for high school students in Rhode Island and the URI Narragansett Undergraduate Scholarship for students who are federally recognized as Narragansett Indian Tribe enrolled citizens. URI is also institutionalizing resources and support for the Native American Student Organization. Through these and other restorative justice efforts, we hope to address the critical issues to ensure our Native community members thrive at URI.

One of the most important developments is a collaboration between the Tomaquag Museum and URI, which will result in a new museum that is set to open in 2023, on 18 acres of rural land on the URI Kingston Campus. The museum has been preparing for the opening by creating architectural and engineering plans, Indigenizing the landscape, developing exhibits, and figuring out the best way to honor and share the gifts of Indigenous cultures, past, present, and future.

We recognize that some progress has been made but there is still a great deal of work to do.

Please take a look at the links to the resources below to broaden your knowledge and understanding of the history and culture of Indigenous Peoples and URI.

Walking through Time: the 5,000-Year History of the URI Campus

Away From Home: American Indian Boarding School Exhibit hosted by the Tomaquag Museum at URI’s University Club Nov. 10 through Jan. 7.

This video, a Newscast produced by The Good Five Cent Cigar, explores the history of the URI campus and its complex and often contentious history of building on Indigenous land.

A Guide to Land Acknowledgments by Lorén Spears

Land Acknowledgment — from the U.S. Department of Arts and Culture

What is now the State of Rhode Island occupies the traditional homelands and waterways of the Narragansett and the Wampanoag peoples as well as those of the Pequot, the Nipmuc, the Niantic, and other Algonquin speaking peoples.

Indigenous Peoples’ Day offers the opportunity to reflect on the enduring contributions the Indigenous Peoples have made locally and globally, and to discuss the lessons from which we continue to benefit as a University community.