Warren forms Native American study group

Committee, approved by Warren Town Council, gets to work soon

By Ted Hayes
Posted 9/23/20

The Warren Town Council has established the American Indian Ad Hoc Study Committee, and through it will study the impact of the area's indigenous population and make recommendations on how to honor …

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Warren forms Native American study group

Committee, approved by Warren Town Council, gets to work soon


The Warren Town Council has established the American Indian Ad Hoc Study Committee, and through it will study the impact of the area's indigenous population and make recommendations on how to honor the legacy that they left for those who now inhabit Warren.

According to Warren historian Dr. David Weed, this small town owes its unique history to its location at the early home of the Massasoit Osamequin and members of his Pokanoket Tribe, who were based in Warren for centuries prior to the arrival of Europeans.

Over the years that history has been described and celebrated here through pageants, books by local authors, speeches, sports mascots and, most visibly, by a sculpture above the door of Town Hall depicting the Massasoit and referencing the first visit to Sowams by the Pilgrims from Plymouth in 1621.

“But the town has not in recent years made that history well-known to its residents and visitors nor celebrated its unique role in the transition from Native to colonial culture that occurred in this area during the 17th century prior to the formation of the Town in 1747,” Mr. Weed said.

“We have a unique opportunity today to both correct our history and to bring our story to light so that all can appreciate not only how Warren was formed but also to celebrate its unique role in the history of the formation of our state and country.”

The Study Commission will represent a number of local organizations and town commission, including The Warren Conservation Commission, The Warren Harbor Commission, The Warren Land Conservation Trust, The Warren Parks and Recreation Board, The active farming community, and The Massasoit Historical Association. There will also be a representative of the Pokanoket Tribe on the commission as well as an ad-hoc representative of the town council. Two slots are open for Warren residents who have an interest in serving. All applicants will have to submit an application ( https://www.townofwarren-ri.gov/residents/news_and_updates/volunteer_opportunities.php ) that they can download from the Town’s Volunteer Opportunities web page. Interviews will be held at the council's Tuesday, Oct. 13 meeting.

The commission is expected to meet monthly, most likely by Zoom initially, Mr. Weed said. Meetings will likely begin during the last two weeks of October and continue until next July, unless council members decide to extend the study period.

“I think having a deadline will help the commission focus on issuing some specific recommendations to the Council for action,” said Mr. Weed, who proposed the initiative at the September council meeting, where members approved it unanimously.

“One of the things I would like to suggest to the commission is that we promote our history with the Massasoit Osamequin who lived here four centuries ago,” Mr. Weed said. “His decision to allay with the Pilgrims ensured their survival. If that hadn’t happened, we’d likely be speaking French, Dutch or Algonkian!"

He would also like to see welcome signs at the entrances to the town note the town's history as home of the Massasoit who welcomed the Pilgrims in 1621.

Mr. Weed has been working for the past three years to create a National Heritage Area that would interpret the 17th century history of the important events that occurred in Warren and seven other surrounding communities. “Everyone knows about Plymouth,” he said. "But few people understand that what happened here influenced the course of colonization for the next three centuries.”

Creating something similar to the Blackstone Valley National Heritage Corridor here in the East Bay would go a long way toward helping people learn about our unique history, he said: “Getting Warren on board would be a great first step.”

Mr. Weed maintains an extensive web page at www.SowamsHeritageArea.org.

pic: Sowams

This terra cotta sculpture on the front of Warren Town Hall commemorates an important 1621 meeting.

Warren's side street history

Traces of Warren's Native American history are everywhere in town, though some are more well-known than others. This is a list of prominent local native sites compiled by historian David Weed.

Burr’s Hill Park

The park at lower Water Street is the location of one of two Royal Pokanoket burial grounds and the likely burial site of both the Massasoit Osamequin and his son, Wamsutta. A descriptive marker gives the history of this unique location, and the reburial site is marked by a stone monument.

Massasoit Spring

The original spring thought to be used by the Massasoit Osamequin and the members of his tribe who occupied the site for thousands of years is located at the western end of Baker Street near Water Street. A plaque at the site was dedicated by the Massasoit Historical Association in 1907.

Hugh Cole Well

The original well dug by Plymouth colonist Hugh Cole is close to a monument and interpretive marker located off the bicycle path behind the Kickemuit Middle School close to the Broken Bridge on the Kickemuit River. Cole, who knew King Philip well, moved to Warren (then Swansea) following the King Philip War of 1675-76.

Child Street

Busy Route 103 is the likely location of a fence that was erected in 1653 demarcating Pokanoket land south of the fence to the end of today’s Bristol peninsula. That land was never purchased or settled by English colonists until it was taken after the 1675-76 King Philip War. Located from the eastern end of Baker Street to the Kickemuit River.

King’s Rock

The National Grinding Stone of the Pokanoket Tribe where Native women were known to grind their corn by rolling a rock along a groove on the top is located close to Sachem’s Knoll across the Swansea town line. It is marked by a large balanced boulder where the tribe gathered for ceremonies. It can be found at the Warren/Swansea line on Route 136 (Market Street).

Kickemuit Cemetery

Rhode Island Historical Cemetery Warren #3 on Serpentine Road is the burial site of several soldiers who fought in the Kind Philip War, including that of John Luther, who died in 1697. Rhode Island Governor Josiah Lyndon, appointed the State of Rhode Island’s last Colonial Governor from 1768-1769, is also buried there. It is located on Serpentine Road near Schoolhouse Road, along the Kickemuit River.

Warren Town Hall

The front facade of the Warren Town Hall contains a terracotta frontispiece of the Massasoit Osamequin with the word “Sowams” and the year 1621 above and below it. It was created when the building was built in 1888, and celebrates the visit of Pilgrim Edward Winslow to the Massasoit in July, 1621, to renew their friendship following the creation of a treaty in March of that year that lasted for more than half a century.

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