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Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Narragansett water deal draws dissent from tribal members

By Bob Plain in Rhode Island’s Future

Domingo Talldog Monroe
The Narragansett Indian Tribe cannot sell its water for a proposed power plant in Burrillville, or to anyone else for that matter, without a vote of tribal members at a tribal meeting. 

That was the opinion of tribe members who protested in front of the tribal Health Center after news reports said the Narragansetts agreed to provide water to Invenergy, the Chicago-based multinational fossil fuel corporation seeking to build a new fossil fuel power plant in Burrillville.

“There’s a constitution in this tribe,” said Domingo Talldog Monroe. 

“The body is the final say. That’s the way it is set up through our bi-laws and constitution as a tribe. If it would have went through the proper protocol and procedure it would have been brought to the tribal body meeting and it would have been brought to the people so we could put a motion on the floor and vote on it. that never happened.”

Loren Spears, who helped organize Friday’s protest and is the executive director of the Tomaquag Museum, agreed.

Loren Spears
“Normally any big decision goes before the tribal body and we all get to vet that decision and vote on that decision and sanction the tribal government to move forward on it,” she said. “The tribal body in the end has the say. We have the power.”

Spears added, “We don’t believe anybody but a very select few know anything about this.”

Spears, Monroe, and others, said they learned of the alleged water agreement from the Providence Journal, which reported the story based on a public document filed by Invenergy with the the Energy Facilities Citing Board.

“I don’t know who made the exact decision,” Spears said. “The word is it was just two or three people.”
Monroe named estranged Sachem Matthew Thomas and Medicine Man John Brown.

“John Brown is basically acting as his hidden chief and Matt Thomas is authorizing everything but he’s been impeached,” said Monroe. “I don’t know how we’ll ever get justice if we don’t push these people out ourselves. No one is above the law.”

Monroe and Spears both said Friday’s protest was a way of putting public pressure on the group negotiating with Invenergy.

“There are many things happening behind the scenes and they don’t want to relinquish their seats,” Monroe said. “This is something that no one is going to stand for in this tribe. We have laws, they are written and they are leaving such a paper trail that eventually we will prevail. We will get our tribe back. These guys have basically strong-armed us. They think they are a step ahead but they made a major mistake this time.”

Both Spears and Monroe also said selling tribal water, which Spears said comes from “sacred springs” on the reservation and is part of the Wood-Pawcatuck watershed, violate tribal ethics.

“I think we were philosophically against the power plant in the first place,” Spears said. “It’s a breach of our own culture and norms to be selling this water. The Earth is sacred and water is sacred. We do not want water taken for this purpose. We think water is life, we don’t believe in supporting the power plant, and we don’t want our water and our aquifer used for that purpose.”

Said Monroe, “We call this Turtle Island, this North American continent. Our belief is that we are stewards of the land. This is what the Great Spirit has left us, the land. We can’t go digging into the ground and ripping it apart because our belief is you will rip the heart out of Mother Earth, you’ll kill her. The story of the Turtle says our promise to you is you take care of us, we take care of you in return. For these people to sign a deal with some fossil fuel company to rip the heart out of mother earth just is not acceptable. It goes against everything.”

He added, “And to think with that big protest in the Dakotas, they might have gotten away with this before that protest but it’s not going to fly this time.”

Bob Plain is the editor/publisher of Rhode Island's Future. Previously, he's worked as a reporter for several different news organizations both in Rhode Island and across the country.