By Cassidy Swanson
Towns, streets, bodies of water and islands take their names from Narragansett words. Local favorites like jonnycakes, quahog chowder and strawberries are all traditional Narragansett foods. But in terms of their culture, many Narragansetts feel that, in their tribe’s home state, they are invisible.
Thanks to a grant from the Rhode Island Council on the Humanities, the tribe hopes to be given greater recognition in the state. The grant paid for the creation of a curriculum to be used in conjunction with the film, “Places, Memories, Stories & Dreams: The Gifts of Inspiration.”
Narragansett Lorén Spears, executive director of the Tomaquag Indian Memorial Museum in Exeter, hopes the new material will help educate local youth about the Narragansetts—something she did not have when she was in school.
She remembers “being in a history class during my elementary days and actually reading that I supposedly didn’t exist, that my family didn’t exist, that my people didn’t exist,” Spears notes in the curriculum.
The film features traditional Narragansett stories and historical recollections of Paulla Dove-Jennings (native name SunFlower), a tribal elder and nationally recognized Native American storyteller. The film’s six segments, as told by Dove-Jennings, are broken down in the 43-page curriculum—available for free download on the museum’s website—in a such a way that teachers can apply the lessons of the stories to the classroom. It includes questions, worksheets and evaluations to go along with each section.
Below: "Lorén Spears, executive director of the Tomaquag Museum in Exeter, is pushing for a greater focus on the culture of the Narragansett Indian Tribe in Rhode Island schools."