PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) ─ Activists and members of the Narragansett Indian Tribe gathered outside of the State House this Columbus Day, calling upon lawmakers to change the holiday’s name to Indigenous Peoples’ Day and to educate Rhode Islanders on the tribe’s history.
Tribal Elder Randy Noka tells 12 News the goal of the 12-hour rally is to enlighten the community about the harsh reality that the country’s native people are facing.
“As good as this country is, or as good as it seems to a lot of people, there is still a long way to go,” he said. “All it takes is for someone to recognize the injustice, recognize the truth, recognize the history that isn’t being taught in the history book.”
Tribal Elder Bella Noka said while they are continuing to push for the holiday’s name to be changed in Rhode Island, their activism only goes so far.
“It does not stop the systemic racism that is killing our children,” she said.
The elders tell 12 news that Rhode Island’s only federally recognized tribe is facing extinction, but unlike animals, they don’t receive any protection or assistance. They said it’s been like this since they first welcomed Europeans to their shore.
“They have robbed us of our waterfront property, which is Grandfather Ocean to us, a place where we do ceremony,” Bella added. “They took us off our balance, we’ve been stripped. We gave Roger Williams land, but it wasn’t enough. More and more his people came and they had a greater need for our land, so they started killing us off for the sake of it.”
Bella said their rally on the south lawn of the State House is actually just steps away from a tribal burial ground, which has since been turned into a parking lot for the Providence Place mall.