URI recognizes Indigenous Peoples’ Day, works to acknowledge campus’ past

URI university of rhode island green hall

Green Hall at The University of Rhode Island

SOUTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. (WPRI) — The University of Rhode Island commemorated Indigenous Peoples’ Day Monday by recognizing and addressing the campus’ troubled history.

In a letter to the URI community, President Marc Parlange recognized the new national holiday and the university’s connection to it.

Indigenous Peoples’ Day, according to Parlange, should be “a time to reflect on the centuries of grave injustice, violence, trauma and genocide that Native peoples have endured, and to consider our institutional and individual commitments to our Native students, staff and faculty.”

Parlange said URI resides on the homelands of the Narragansett Indian Tribe, and the Kingston campus was provided to the university’s founders through a land grant from the U.S. government.

“We recognize that some progress has been made but there is still a great deal of work to do,” Parlange said.

Parlange said the university is currently collaborating with the Tomaquag Museum to establish a new museum on campus that will “honor and share the gifts of Indigenous cultures, past, present and future.”

According to university documents although the new museum is being built on URI’s property, the university is not paying for its construction. The museum, which will take up 18 acres of rural space, is scheduled to open in 2023.

Parlange said this past summer, the university worked with members of the Native American Advisory Council to establish the Native Youth College Prep Program for Rhode Island high school students and the URI Narragansett Undergraduate Scholarship for Narragansett students.

Last year, professor’s from URI’s history and anthropology department created a one-credit course revolving around the history of the university’s campus. The course included educational videos featuring Lorén Spears, executive director of the Tomaquag Museum.

In a video from the class, Spears said, “Native students have and continue to attend URI with the hope that someday reparations will be addressed, and all Narragansett students will be provided a full tuition waiver or scholarship to attend.”

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