Metro, News

University, Pokanoket agree to create land trust

Pokanoket left month-long encampment Monday morning as part of accord with University

By
Senior Staff Writer
Monday, September 25, 2017

The University and the Pokanoket Nation reached an agreement Sept. 21 to put a portion of the Bristol land in a preservation trust, wrote Russell Carey ’91 MA’06, executive vice president for planning and policy, in a community-wide email on Monday. The trust will be accessible not only to the Pokanoket Nation, but also to other tribes with historical claims to the land, according to the agreement. The University made its announcement after confirming that the Pokanoket Nation cleared their over month-long encampment as part of the agreement.

The exact portion of the Bristol land that will be transferred into the trust will be determined by a cultural resources survey, which will be led by a firm hired and funded by the University, Carey told The Herald. The Pokanoket Nation will be able to determine the governance and structure of the trust after its discussions with “other tribes with a historical interest in this land,” according to the agreement.

The agreement was signed after four in-person meetings between Pokanoket representatives and Brown representatives Carey, Deputy Provost Joseph Meisel, Director of the Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology Robert Preucel and the University’s legal counsel. Two meetings were on the Bristol lands and two were at the School of Professional Studies.

So far, two sacred sites that will be part of the trust have been identified. The first is the location where Chief Metacom — also known as King Philip — was killed, and the second is where he held tribal council meetings, Carey said. The cultural resources survey and the search for organizations with the appropriate historical and anthropological expertise will begin soon, he added.

The cultural resources survey will require input “from all parties with a historical interest in the land,” and these parties will also be given “full and transparent access to … survey output before any final determinations are made,” according to the agreement.

The University has acknowledged that the people of the Pokanoket Nation, who have historical ownership of the Mount Hope lands on the Bristol property, have been “dispersed among many tribes” and “aboriginal peoples of New England” other than the “present-day Pokanoket Tribe,” according to the agreement.

The Pokanoket dispersal began during King Philip’s War in the 1670s, when Pokanoket identity was criminalized and punishable by death, said Sagamore Po Wauipi Neimpaug of the Pokanoket Nation, The Herald previously reported.

If necessary, the University “is willing to help identify and support a mediator to assist in facilitating an agreement among the parties” who have claims to the Bristol land as they select the governance and organizational structure of the preservation trust. Such relevant parties include the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah), the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe and the Assonet Band of the Wampanoag Nation and others, according to the agreement.

In addition to the cultural resources survey, the University will fund a land survey, a standard procedure for drawing the new boundaries that will be established between the land in the trust and the land to be kept by the University, Carey said. According to the agreement, “the University has already reached out to a land surveyor to discuss the commencement” of such a survey.

In the agreement, the University outlined its commitment to the conservation of the Bristol land by ensuring “appropriate stewardship” as well as appropriate management, as the Bristol property is a “unique historical, sacred and natural resource.” The lands in the trust will be prevented from sale or future development, Carey said.

The Bristol property currently owned by the University is about 375 acres, according to an earlier press release. The Haffenreffer Museum’s Collections Research Center and a multipurpose center used for summer programs and environmental research currently sit on the land, according the agreement. This land was donated to the University by the Haffenreffer family in the 1950s.

According to an online statement by Neesu Wushuwunoag,  director general of the Federation of Aboriginal Nations of America, this Bristol land was originally transferred from the Pokanoket Nation to the Plymouth Colony in 1680 in an unlawful “by Turf and by Twig” transfer ceremony. Following the beheading of Metacom, Plymouth representative James Ingrahm presented a snapped twig from a tree and “a clod of dirt” from this land to declare to colonial proprietors his ownership, according to the statement.

The Sagamore of the Pokanoket will publish a statement on the Po Metacom Camp Facebook page soon, said Wushuwunoag, who declined to comment on the agreement until the statement is released.