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 WE STILL LIVE

 THE AMERICAN INDIANS

 Our old chief Sachem?s are gone, but we must continue to survive.  We are not a vanishing race but a race that is steadily increasing.  We have overcome many obstacles: we have adapted and readjusted ourselves and our lives to live in your society.  We are willing to learn from you as well as you have learned from us. We have values which are inherent in group identity; we respect nature for what it has provided for us and how it has enabled us to continue our Indian culture.  We have our basic likes and dislikes like any other group ? but we are proud people, the First Americans.

           Most people try to trace their ancestry back to the landing of the Pilgrims but we, the Narragansett Indians, can trace back before that time, for art history has been handed down from generation to generation in our songs, our dances and events carved into stone.  Part of our history has been preserved by many non- Indian friends, such as our language, which is one of a few written Indian languages in America, (done by Roger Williams).  Today our language is rarely spoken but it is ours; it is part of our culture.

          The position of the Narragansett Indians differs from that of other groups in Rhode Island because we are recognized our local government and other historical groups within the state.

           We continue to maintain our heritage and culture at our Annual August Meeting, which is the oldest recorded the event that has been continuous for more than 300 years (it is held on the second Sunday in August of each year); the Saturday before August Meeting has been named Rhode Island Indian Day; Fall Festival is the first Sunday in October; other events which Narragansett Indians participate in are the Great Swamp Memorial in September and the Coronation of Queen Ester in May.  These events are now open to the general public, but in the past some were exclusive for the Indians.  We continue to teach our Indian youth about their rich heritage at the Narragansett Indian Long House, established by the Indian tribe for this purpose.  It is here we teach the Indian youth how to do Indian handicraft, to sing Indian songs and dances.  Many of the Indian youth often receive private lessons in their homes.  They are encouraged to continue their education of the present society as well as that of their forefathers, since it is usual for the schools to ignore the cultural heritage of the children as if it didn?t exist ? or worse, as if it required eradication.  A good example of this was told by Benjamin Franklin when he related the response of Indian leaders to an offer of education for Indian youth:

           You who are wise must know that different nations have different conceptions of things and will therefore not take it amiss if our ideas of this kind of education happen not to be the same as yours .we have had some experience with it. Several of our young people were formerly brought up to colleges of the northern provinces; but when they came back to us, they were bad runners, ignorant of every means of living in the woods? totally good for nothing.  We are, however? obliged by your kind offer? and to show are grateful sense of it, if the gentleman of Virginia will send up a dozen of their sons, we will take great care of their education to; instruct them in all we know and make men of them. 

          Another aspect of our culture involves the Indian Church which is still actively attended today.  There had been many attempts at the conversion of Indians but the missionaries were generally unsuccessful.

           About 1741, a reformation was brought about among the Narragansett Indians in Charlestown (probably under the care of a Mr. Park) and a church was formed soon after.  The first pastor, James Simons, and after him the famous and can and Samuel Niles, in his day, one of the most eminent Indian preachers in America. Other succeeded him and it is recorded by visitor in 1812 that in attendance at the church were few female members of the church still living and acted in religious affairs; three of them about seventy years of age. The male members were all absent on a fishing voyage.

           According to the most reliable information that can be deduced, the old Indian church was erected somewhere about 110 years before the erection of the present one (hence the old structure was built about 1750) within a half-mile of the old Indian school and pond. It was a wooden structure built without any regard for beauty, warmth or convenience, and quite inferior to the present Church; get there have been very many good sermons proclaimed within its walls.  Here the renowned Samuel Niles poured out the gospel tidings, with well amazing eloquence to the sons of the forest.

           The present Narragansett Indian Church was erected in 1859 of granite stone after a fire had destroyed the initial wooden structure. It is 28 feet wide and 40 feet long, with ample room for all ordinary purposes for today?s members.  The church is located two miles off of Route 2 in Charlestown, Rhode Island, the heart of a once great nation, located beautiful woods of Charlestown, surrounded by natural Springs, lakes, streams, and Indian School House Pond; many historical sites and many Indian secrets and.

           Church services have been held here continually since construction except during the stormy winter months when the roads are in passable.  Today as small group of Narragansett Indians, other Indians and their friends regularly attend church services.

           This is only a small portion of our heritage, but what about the Narragansett Indians of today and what future lies ahead for the Narragansett Indian children in Rhode Island?  Do you know who the Narragansett Indians are?

           You live in Rhode Island should know we are, although there are many who try to deny our existence.  For we are your neighbors, we live in houses, we own cars, we work with you and often for you, our children attend the local schools, we dress the same as you, and all too often we act and talk as you; but we are different, because we are Indians.  We?re not to be judged by you buy the color of our skin, the length of our hair, where we live, what you?ve seen and television, or written in the newspapers, but by our blood.  For you can destroy or take away all material things, but we still live, the Narragansett Indians.

Lucille C. Stanton Dawson

?Princess Morning Star?

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