Brown University is recognizing that the Narragansett people have been dispossessed of most of their land over centuries because of the actions of individuals and institutions. The school says it has a responsibility to understand those actions and respond to them. 

The acknowledgment reads, “The Narragansett Indian Tribe, whose ancestors stewarded these lands with great care, continues as a sovereign nation today. We commit to working together to honor our past and build our future with truth.”

The acknowledgment is supported by the Narragansett, the state’s only federally recognized American Indian tribe, and was established after a working group researched indigenous history and culture, and reached out to tribal members for input. 

Brown says it will commission and support new scholarship regarding the founding of the school and its relationship to indigenous peoples; establish a group to work with the Narragansett Indian Tribe to explore ways to honor and memorialize its Providence campus as part of the Narragansett homeland; support education opportunities for Narragansett youth; and increase investment in indigenous studies and the Native Americans at Brown student organization. 

In a media release, Brown University President Christina H. Paxson called the commitment being made by the school “critical to understanding our shared history and developing strong relationships.”

Narragansett Indian Tribe Medicine Man and Historic Preservation Officer John Brown met with the university’s working group as it worked on the acknowledgment. He calls the new acknowledgment a “step in the right direction.”

“We’ve got other steps to take,” Brown said. “But this opens the door for discussion.”

Alex Nunes can be reached at