Narragansett Indian Tribe of Rhode Island


Some Narragansetts say it is not unusual for them to be pulled over by police for minor traffic infractions or to be stopped while walking alone at night. But tribal members told a state commission Dec. 6 such possible examples of bias against minorities are not isolated to police. The comments came at a special meeting in Charlestown of the Rhode Island Select Commission on Race and Police-Community Relations. The panel is looking into whether police unfairly target minorities. Tribal members say they have suffered mistreatment throughout their long history in the state. "We've been dealing with this issue since the inception of the Europeans, since that boat first scraped ground," said Rosilyn Brown-Barnett, a tribal member from South Kingstown. "We have lived with racism." Chief Sachem Matthew Thomas said the state discriminates against tribal members by failing to recognize their sovereignty. He noted the 15-member state commission includes no tribal members, despite a request made to Gov. Lincoln Almond for representation. Brown-Barnett said she has been stopped on the roads more than a dozen times by the state and local police in the last four years for minor offenses, such as an interior light that didn't work and driving with tinted windows after dark.