A colorful timeline blooms in Providence neighborhood

Street Stories

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — A full-color timeline is bringing a history lesson to a Providence neighborhood.

That timeline is telling the story of the people who lived there long before it was known as Mount Hope.

A variety of brushes, some taped to poles to reach the top of the concrete on the Billy Taylor Park overpass, are in the hands of Native American artist Deborah Spears Moorehead.

“Everything will be bold so you can see it from the street,” she said between strokes.

Spears Moorehead said the mural will be a bright reminder of a time when her Wampanoag and Narragansett ancestors lived here and often came to this overlook, now known as Mount Hope.

“It was like strategic to see anyone who was coming in around you,” Spears Moorehead said.

She says she’s has ancestors tied to both local tribes.

“We were from Mount Hope and we lived here for 10,000 years. So, this land has layers and layers of history in it,” she said.

Spears Moorhead has been painting Native American art for almost 40 years.

She feels honored to complete the Mount Hope mural, which is one of many in a series of street art projects.

“I get to illustrate our story in our words,” she said. “It doesn’t have any cultural biases. Native American by a Native American.”

The faces depict actual tribe members from the past, including Chief Edward Michade, also known as Chief Sunset, who led the Narragansett tribe in the ’20s.

As Spears Moorhead continues the mural toward Cypress Street, you will begin to see present-day Native Americans, including her self-portrait and the Narragansett tribe’s Randy Noka.

She hopes the mural will provoke questions about Native American struggles and success – as well as an understanding about who was here and who still is.

“It shows that we’ve existed here and I’m going to continue it so that it shows that we still exist,” she said. “That we’re not a people of the past.”

Spears Moorehead said she was asked to take on the project after the original plans fell through. So, as she puts it, she’s on the clock.

The project has to be done in about two weeks before it’s unveiled as part of a neighborhood celebration.

Send tips to Target 12 Investigator Walt Buteau at wbuteau@wpri.com and follow him on Twitter @wbuteau.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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