Master of Jurisprudence in Indian Law - University of Tulsa College of Law
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Series: Traditions keep Narragansett Tribe going

From termination to land claims to the fight for federal recognition, the Narragansett Tribe of Rhode Island has survived by relying on its traditions.

The state terminated its relationship with the tribe in 1880 but tribal members stayed together. They relied on church meetings where Indian and Christian traditions blended.

With the passage of the 1934 Indian Reorganization Act, the tribe sought to reassert its status. In a newly built longhouse, tribal leaders drafted a constitution, which requires a medicine man and a Christian preacher.

The tribe's longhouse and church were at the center of tribal activity even as the federal government failed to recognize the tribe. When it came time to document its land claims and status, the tribe returned to the longhouse to gather evidence. The tribe won federal recognition in 1983 after settling its land claim.

Today, Christian beliefs continue to play a role in the lives of many Narragansetts. But some say the younger generation is drifting away from the church.

Others, like Lloyd Wilcox, prefer to focus on Indian traditions. Wilcox is the tribe's third-generation medicine man.

Get the Story:
Part 4: From church to citadel, Narragansetts endure (The Providence Journal 8/4)
Part 4: Preacher carries on 'the call' handed down through generations (The Providence Journal 8/4)
Part 4: Spanning the generations (The Providence Journal 8/4)

Relevant Links:
Narragansett Tribe -

Related Stories:
One Nation, Two Worlds: Series on Narragansett Tribe (8/3)