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by Ann Clanton, contributing writer, “Speak-Up”
Activist Neesu Wushuwunoa is the great-grandson of Chief George Watson of the Narragansett Indian Tribe. The Sachem of the Mashapaug Nahaganset Tribe based in Providence, is commonly known as Raymond “Two Hawks” Watson.
At one time the Thanksgiving holiday was often associated with Native Americans. However, advocacy and protest over Rhode Island’s celebration of Columbus Day and the removal of the Christopher Columbus statue has moved beyond Thanksgiving and the Christopher Columbus Rhode Island Native-American community and Raymond “Two Hawks” Watson has been positioned front and center.
As Chief of the Mashapaug Tribe, Mr. Watson is laser focused on issues affecting the members of his Providence-Cranston based Tribe, and to an extent the Indigenous
people in the whole region.
Watson wants to make it known that Indigenous people always celebrate Native American culture. “I try to celebrate the Native American culture every day,” says the outspoken activist. To ensure that Indigenous people’s culture and contributions to Rhode Island are recognized formally, he founded the Providence Cultural Equity Initiative (PCEI). PCEI promotes, cultivates and advocates for the Cultural Sector (Indigenous People) and equal participation in Rhode Island’s economy.
Without question, Mr. Watson is shrewd. He has developed partnerships, garnered support for PCIE’s agenda to uplift Native Americans economically among a diverse group of government agencies and non-profit organizations. “My focus is on getting our tribal ID recognized as a separate jurisdiction”. The City of Providence Arts, Culture, and Tourism office, the Rhode Island Foundation and AS220 are among the consulting organization’s allies. In 2016, Mr. Watson received the Rhode Island Foundation’s 2016 Innovation Fellowship Award.
Despite having the support of municipal and quasi-public organizations, he is critical of establishment leaders in government on both sides of the aisle. This criticism is as he says because of their lack of support for Native Americans. He cites the deceased Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, known affectionately as Notorious RBG as “someone who was not supportive of the Native Americans”. In an 8-1 opinion she wrote in the case of Sherrill v. Oneida Indian n. “Given the longstanding non-Indian character of the area and its inhabitants, the tribe cannot unilaterally revive its ancient sovereignty.
Regardless of who is on the Supreme Court, in the State House or White House, Mr. Watson stresses being good stewards and members of the community regardless of whom is in office. Asked his thoughts on the outcomes of the Presidential election, he says that because he heads a separate Nation, personally, he does not vote.
The activist and leader of the Mashapaug Nahaganset Tribe is looking towards 2021. Not surprising he will be challenging the system to create a tribal court system to operate within Rhode Island Tribes’ aligned with the traditional Indigenous cultures and more importantly celebrating that “every day is a great day to be alive”.
Ann-Allison Clanton was born and raised in Providence, Rhode Island. As principle of Ann Clanton Communications, Ann has more than two decades of experience as a communications and public affairs consultant. She has written features and profiles articles for the Providence American Newspaper and Ethnic Online Magazine.
Among the notable persons interviewed include former U. S. Ambassador Andrew Young, Dr. Cornell West, former Florida Congressman Allen West (R-FL) and Ringling Brothers and Barnum Bailey Circus first African American Ringmaster, Johnathan Lee Iverson.
Ann is the founder of the Rhode Island Black Film Festival and a founding member of the Southern New England Association of Black Journalists.