Brown statement on Pokanoket Nation encampment

August 21, 2017
University asserts legal standing for land maintained in Bristol; focuses on safety of individuals in encampment.


PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — Brown University owns land in Bristol, Rhode Island, that is currently the site of an encampment set up by the Bristol-based Pokanoket Nation during the early evening of Sunday, Aug. 20, 2017.

The University upholds the rights of individuals to assemble peaceably to express their views, provided that their actions do not infringe upon the rights of others — including the free exchange of ideas — or interfere with the rights of others to take part in the activities of Brown’s academic community and campus life. Our interest is in the safety of those assembled.

Brown owns approximately 375 acres of land in Bristol, which was donated in parcels over time to the University by the Haffenreffer family beginning in the 1950s. The property ownership was legally transferred to Brown, and the University has been a positive steward of the land. Brown has maintained clear legal title for more than 60 years.

The property is home to the Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology’s Collections Research Center, which holds more than 1 million ethnographic objects, archaeological specimens and images from all parts of the world. The other significant structure on the property is a multipurpose outing center used primarily by the Brown Environmental Leadership Lab (BELL) program.

Given the tremendous historical and cultural importance of the Mount Hope area, the Haffenreffer Museum staff and Brown University have long valued their relationships with local Native American communities.

Brown has maintained and is committed to its productive working relationships with the recognized Indigenous Nations in this area — the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) and the Narragansett Indian Tribe. The University recently participated in the Burr’s Hill reburial ceremony in which the Mashpee, Aquinnah, and the Assonet Band of Wampanoag reburied human remains and funerary objects repatriated from the Haffenreffer Museum’s collection, as well as from other museums. Brown has ensured that all Wampanoag peoples, including the Pokanoket, have access to the land, and will continue to do so.

Brown expects opportunities for open dialogue with the Pokanoket as the University becomes more knowledgeable about their concerns.


Brown's original statement can be found here, on