Published on September 27, 2013 by Amy
Loren Spears is an educator, essayist, artist and two-term Tribal Councilwoman of the Narragansett Tribe in Charlestown, Rhode Island, where she currently resides. She is a graduate of Chariho Regional High School. Loren has taught for over two decades, including 12 years in the Newport Public School system working with at-risk children. In 2010, Spears was chosen as one of 11 Extraordinary Women honorees for Rhode Island in the area of education.
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Spears is also a strong advocate for integrating more Native history and experiential learning into school curricula. She describes this philosophy in an essay included in The Pursuit of Happiness, published in 2005 by the Tomaquag Indian Memorial Museum, of which Spears is also the Executive Director. The museum was the site of a private, state-certified school, the Nuweetooun (Narragansett for “Our Home”) School, which Spears ran from 2003 to 2010. According to an article by fellow Narragansett mover John Christian Hopkins, the school was founded by Spears with the help of the Narragansett community and donations from many groups, including a local charity, the Narragansett Tribe, as well as the Rhode Island Foundation. Though Spears is Narragansett, the school is not linked to any particular tribe. Nuweetooun gave K-8 Native children an experiential, collaborative curriculum based in Native American traditions and culture, as well as standard academic subjects like Math, Language Arts, Social Studies, Health and Science.
In March 2010, the Supreme Court made a ruling that led to the removal of 31 acres of land out of trust from the Narragansett reservation in Charlestown. Since the tribe had much less land for money-making ventures, they had less money to provide to the school. In addition, Rhode Island was hit with devastating floods, which forced the school to go on hiatus, where it remains today.
Along with other Narragansett tribal members, Spears also collaborated with artist Holly Ewald and the Tomaquag Indian Memorial Museum to create Through Our Eyes: An Indigenous View of Mashapaug Pond, a book of collage art, including poetry, photography and stamping, that tells the Indigenous history of Mashapaug Pond.