SOAR! Community Conversation Highlights

Seekonk Public Library and Mt. Hope Farm, March 2024

More than 130 people attended the Sowams Community Conversations last month, including environmentalists, historians and scholars, Tribal members, business owners, preservationists, religious leaders, civil servants, and members of the arts, culture and humanities communities.

They gathered to discuss the future of the proposed Sowams National Heritage Area (NHA) and its impact on the nine communities in the NHA study area. This was the second of three rounds of public conversations that are integral to the development of an NHA feasibility study. The discussions were organized in a SOAR analysis, focusing on the region’s Strengths, Opportunities, Aspirations, and desired Results.

A list of all the recorded comments is posted on the March 2024 page of the sowams.org website.


Strengths

“The landscape itself is part of the history and a resource for teaching about that history.”

  • As the setting for one of America’s origin stories, the history of Sowams is significant and compelling

  • The story of Sowams is embedded in a landscape that’s defined by its waterways
  • Significant work is underway to maintain Tribal heritage, which reflects the “living landscape” of an NHA

  • The communities in Sowams are currently doing a good job protecting the land and preserving historic structures.

  • Indigenous and colonial sites can be found throughout the region, such as:
    • Potumtuk (Mt. Hope) in Bristol, RI, the Royal Burial Ground in Warren, RI, and Anawan Rock in Rehoboth, MA.
    • Newman Congregational Church in East Providence, RI, the Garrison House in Swansea, MA, and Roger Williams National Park in Providence, RI

Opportunities

“SowamsNHA is an opportunity to bring together a kaleidoscope of communities and peoples”

  • A collaboration of the region’s many historic organizations could tie together the major stories of Sowams from first contact through present time

  • Take advantage of the region’s vibrant arts community to help tell the story of Sowams
  • Replicate throughout the region the efforts of the Bristol/Barrington schools, who are incorporating Pokanoket history and culture into their curriculum

  • Regionalize efforts to preserve our rich natural heritage and build on Indigenous knowledge of sustainable land and water practices

Aspirations

“Sowams can be a place to hear a story that no one else can tell.”

We would like Sowams to be a place where,

  • We feel a deeper connection to Sowams; where there are no barriers between towns, cities and states

  • Kids, families and especially teenagers understand the significance of Sowams and are engaged in all sorts of activities throughout the region
  • Indigenous traditions of sustainable stewardship of land and water become a model for regional efforts to address climate change and protect the natural environment
  • Regional cultural/arts events incorporate the (hi)stories of Sowams

  • Alliances within and between communities enable environmental groups, cultural organizations, schools, businesses, etc. to work together 

Results

“The Sowams National Heritage Area is an example of successful community collaboration–across nine towns/cities, two states, the United States, and the Pokanoket Nation.”

  • Sowams is recognized nationally and internationally

  • The public has access to publications; audio tours and trails; tour guides; QR codes at sites; and phone apps that links videos to Sowams landmarks

  • The story of Sowams is in all local school curriculums and embedded in arts and tourism initiatives
  • A regional resource base welcomes visitors; showcases all the assets in the area; supports collaborative projects; and provides a platform for all voices to be heard

  • Sowams is part and parcel of the culture, economy and government of the region

“The Land will be healed, and we will be, too.”