by: Walt ButeauPosted: Jan 6, 2020 / 06:57 PM EST / Updated: Jan 7, 2020 / 08:41 AM EST
CHARLESTOWN, R.I. (WPRI) — The Narragansett Indian Tribe is looking for help from the U.S. Justice Department in a battle over land tribal leaders assert they owned in the first place.
Three South County parcels are the subject of an active federal case connected to the Providence I-95 Viaduct replacement project.
According to the complaint filed last year, when mitigating potential impact on historical and sacred tribal property buried some 50 feet under the viaduct was not feasible, the state agreed to transfer ownership of three parcels of land near the tribe’s Charlestown reservation.
Medicine Man John Brown said after the 2011 agreement was “signed, sealed and delivered,” the state went back on the deal, demanding the tribe surrender its soveriegn immunity over the three parcels.
According to Brown, that would take away any control the Narragansetts would have over the land.
“They were supposed to purchase the land for us,” Brown said. “The state of Rhode Island purchased the land and put it in their own name.”
The Narragansetts are suing the Federal Highway Administration because millions of dollars in taxpayer money from that agency were used in the viaduct project.
Federal law requires states to consult local indian tribes anytime federal money is used on a project.
Still, Brown and Chief Sachem Anthony Dean Stanton place blame for the reneged deal on a single state official: Gov Gina Raimondo’s legal counsel, Claire Richards, who was also a top lawyer for former Govs. Lincoln Chafee and Don Carcieri.
“I know that she has a high dislike and a great disrespect for Indian people,” Brown said. “I could not guess the machinations that are in that person’s mind, but I can tell you that they are troubling in this day and age.”
Richards would not comment on the specifics of the ongoing litigation tied to the soured land deal, and declined to respond to Brown’s claim that race played a role.
“I really don’t know what to say about that,” Richards said.
The tribe is asking the Department of Justice to move the case to Washington, D.C., where Brown and Stanton insist they’ll have a better chance.
According to a letter to the DOJ provided to Target 12, the Narragansetts are also… click the link to finish reading the article… https://www.wpri.com/target-12/tribe-claims-race-played-role-in-reneged-land-deal/