Narragansett Indian Reservation

Published on January 4, 2013 by Amy

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Narragansett Indian Reservation
Narragansett Indian Reservation


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The Narragansett tribe are an Algonquian Native American tribe from Rhode Island. In 1983 they regained federal recognition as the Narragansett Indian Tribe of Rhode Island.

In 2009, the United States Supreme Court ruled against their request that the Department of Interior take land into trust which they had acquired in 1991. The ruling prohibited tribes that achieved federal recognition after the 1934 Indian Reorganization Act to have newly acquired lands taken into trust and removed from state control.


Recognized by the federal government in 1983, the Narragansett tribe controls the Narragansett Indian Reservation, 1,800 acres (7.3 km2) of trust lands in Charlestown, Rhode Island. A small portion of the tribe resides on or near the reservation, whose population is 60, according to the 2000 U.S. Census.Additionally, they own several hundred acres in Westerly.

In 1991 the Narragansett purchased 31 acres (130,000 m2) in Charlestown for development of elderly housing. In 1998 they requested that the Department of Interior take the property into trust on behalf of the tribe, to remove it from state and local control. The case went to the Supreme Court, as the state challenged the removal of new lands from state oversight by tribes recognized after the 1934 Indian Reorganization Act. Rhode Island was joined in its appeal by twenty-one other states.

In 2009, the United States Supreme Court ruled against the Narragansett request, concluding that tribes that achieved federal recognition after the 1934 Indian Reorganization Act could not have the Department of Interior take their lands acquired after federal recognition into trust and remove them from state control.


The tribe is led by an elected tribal council, a chief sachem, a medicine man, and a Christian leader. The entire tribal population must approve major decisions. The current administration is as follows:

  • Chief Sachem: Matthew Thomas
  • Medicine man: Lloyd G. Wilcox
  • First Councilman: Jonathan Montey
  • Councilpersons:
  • Hiawatha Brown
  • Lonny Brown
  • Loren Spears
  • Shawn Perry
  • Tammi Monroe
  • Randy R. Noka
  • Irving “Rocky” Johnson
  • John Pompey
  • Tribal secretary: Dawn M Spears
  • Name and language

    The word “Narragansett” means, literally, “(People) of the Small Point.” Traditionally the tribe spoke the Narragansett language, a member of the Algonquian language family. The language became extinct during the Narragansetts’ years of living within the larger majority society and its members declining in speaking their own language.

    The tribe has begun revival efforts, based on early-20th-century books and manuscripts, and new teaching programs. The Narragansett spoke a “Y-dialect”, similar enough to the “N-dialects” of the Massachusett and Wampanoag to be mutually intelligible. Other Y-dialects include the Shinnecock and Pequot languages spoken historically by tribes on Long Island and in Connecticut.

    In the 17th century, Roger Williams, a co-founder of Rhode Island, learned the tribe’s language, documenting it in his 1643 work, A Key Into the Language of America. Williams gave the tribe’s name as Nanhigganeuck.

    American English has absorbed a number of loan words from Narragansett and other closely related languages, such as Wampanoag and Massachusett. Such words include quahog, moose, papoose, powwow, squash, and succotash.

    Source: wikipedia Unabridged
    Based on the collective work of, © 2015 Native American Encyclopedia.
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