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University representatives meet with Pokanoket encampment leaders in Bristol

U. administrators, Haffenreffer staff, visit encampment Tuesday to discuss land access

By
Science & Research Editor
Thursday, August 24, 2017

Several representatives of the University, including staff from the Haffenreffer Museum, visited the Pokanoket encampment in Bristol Tuesday morning, bearing a peace offering and speaking with leaders of the gathering about access to the disputed land, said Neesu Wushuwunoag, director general of the Federation of Aboriginal Nations of America and Ponham Sachem of the Mashapaug Nahaganset Tribe.

The University’s “focus was to listen and become knowledgeable about their position,” wrote Cass Cliatt, vice president for communications, in an email to The Herald. “Staff at the Haffenreffer Museum who have maintained strong relationships with the area’s Indigenous Nations” were included in the group of representatives, she wrote.

The Pokanoket conveyed their view to the representatives that the University does not hold the right to offer the land, Wushuwunoag said.

“The University made no assertions about a path forward” during the visit, Cliatt wrote, emphasizing the administration’s commitment to continued dialogue with the Pokanoket Nation. “The University feels strongly that the most productive conversations will come through direct engagement between the Pokanoket and the University,” she added.

The Pokanoket are pleased that conversations working toward a friendly agreement have begun, Wushuwunoag said. But the encampment will continue “until Brown does the right thing,” and the Pokanoket Nation will take the matter to court if necessary, he said.

“This is sacred land here.” Wushuwunoag said. “This is where we should be coming to celebrate with the Pokanokets, to hold ceremony with the Pokanokets, to bring the future generations here.”