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Monday, October 16, 2017

Tribal members march against Narragansett water deal with power plant company

EDITOR’S NOTE: For many more photos and videos of this protest, please go to Steve’s original posting in Rhode Island’s Future. – Will Collette

Narragansett Indian Tribe (NIT) members and power plant opponents from Burrillville marched together from the Rhode Island Indian Council offices on Broad Street in Providence to the Rhode Island State House in opposition to Invenergy‘s proposed $1 billion fracked gas and diesel oil burning power plant and against the water deal the company secured with NIT leadership, without the consent of tribe members.

In order to cool its turbines, Invenergy must secure a source of potable water.

After failing to secure water in the vicinity of the plant, Invenergy negotiated a deal with the Town of Johnston to truck water to Burrillville.

That deal is being challenged in Rhode Island Superior Court.

Invenergy recently revealed that they had secured alternative water supplies from two sources: the Narragansett Indian Tribe in Charlestown and one other source, which has been redacted in Energy Facility Siting Board filings.

Narragansett Tribe members were as surprised as the rest of Rhode Island by Invenergy’s announcement, and now members are speaking out, saying that without ratification from the tribal body by means of a vote, there can be no deal.

Before the march started there was a ceremony in which sage was burned and the smoke wafted onto participants.

The tribe members who spoke at the end of the march are normally reticent about talking about tribal problems in public.

Elected tribe councilors have been in a dispute with leadership since the 2016 elections for Tribal Council, and there was deep division between tribe members and the tribal leadership before the deal with Invenergy became public.

“Whoever signed the water deal for the sake of the Burrillville power plant was not authorized on the part of the Narragansett Tribe,” said NIT Councilor Randy Noka. “So as far as I’m concerned that agreement is illegal… If the tribe were to vote on it, the answer would be no.”

To NIT tribe members, Noka added, “This alleged agreement is indicative of some of the things that have been ongoing. I don’t typically air tribal laundry out here to the public beyond the tribe but… If they can sign an agreement such as this without consulting with members, then what else are they doing?

“So tribal members, open your eyes to the realities of what’s going on. Open your eyes to the realities of no election. Open your eyes to the realities of civil rights being violated, of people being physically violated on the reservation… We’re fighting for the rights of our people.”

“We’re not going to allow it. We’re going to fight it, contest it. We’re protesting it and we have the energy of the great spirit behind us,” said NIT Councilor Domingo Talldog Monroe.

“We have come here today to call upon our federal representatives to honor our land and trust,” said NIT member Darlene Monroe.

“The Bureau of Indian Affairs is supposed to oversee what goes on in our tribe. However, corruption is rampant in Indian country… We want our constitution respected just as the United States Constitution is respected.”

Three people from Burrillville also spoke, welcoming the partnership with the Narragansett Tribe members in opposing the power plant.

Steve Ahlquist is an award-winning journalist, writer, artist and founding member of the Humanists of Rhode Island, a non-profit group dedicated to reason, compassion, optimism, courage and action. The views expressed are his own and not necessarily those of any organization of which he is a member. and Twitter: @SteveAhlquist