Decolonizing Sowams: Resisting the Erasure of Indigenous Lives in the East Bay of Rhode Island
“Decolonizing Sowams: Resisting the Erasure of Indigenous Lives in the East Bay of Rhode Island,” presented by RWU Associate Professor of Anthropology Jeremy Campbell – will be held on Zoom on Wednesday, Sept. 16 at 7 p.m. It is the first event in the year-long Hidden Truths series, examining racial justice issues in Indigenous and Black communities, stemming from colonization, the slave trade, immigration and environmental politics.
Campbell’s lecture will explore the history of the Pokanoket nation, the original inhabitants of the Bristol and greater East Bay area, and their ancestral land which they called Sowams. As part of a collaborative, student-driven research project, Campbell and his students are publishing oral histories of the local Indigenous peoples that have been passed on verbally through generations in order to preserve and reveal new perspectives of the stories that have shaped our local area, dating back 400 years to present day. Their research spans from the genocidal King Philip’s War, which paved the way for colonization, to watching the seat of their spiritual and political homeland carved into a Cold War-era Nike missile site, and how current day tribal members ensure their traditions survive and endure.
“Bristol is very proud of its colonial history – it’s painted red, white, and blue right down the middle of the road – and justifiably so. But there’s an earlier history that is also crucial to understand, and it’s written right here in the land and its people are still here,” says Campbell, a Fulbright Scholar with expertise on Indigenous peoples and their land, especially land conflicts and ecological change in the Brazilian Amazon. “We can have a richer and more sustainable idea of our nation if we understand there were many threads that bring it together – and that speaks to addressing racial justice for the local Indigenous people as well.”