Indigenous leaders to deliver commencement address


Courtesy of RWU

Sagamore William Guy will be one of two people giving the commencement address on May 22, 2021.

Rachel Dvareckas, Editor-in-Chief

There will be two speakers giving the commencement address for the graduation of the classes of 2020 and 2021 on May 22 and 23.

The Chief of the Pokanoket tribe, Sagamore William Guy, and executive director of the Tomaquag Indigenous Museum, Lorén Spears will deliver the address.

Associate Professor of Anthropology Dr. Jeremy Campbell has worked closely with the Pokanoket and Narragansett tribes this past year and a half in order to craft a formal Land Acknowledgement of the grounds RWU sits on. Campbell says it shows the university’s commitment to fostering relationships with the communities.

“[I’m] really proud that Roger Wiliams is recognizing such accomplished Indigenous leaders from two local nations, the Narrangansett Indian nation and the Pokanoket tribe,” Campbell told The Hawks’ Herald. “It’s about time.”

University President Ioannis Miaoulis said these two Indigenous leaders reflect RWU’s mission of “strengthening society” and they should be honored.

“William Guy and Lorén Spears are doing the vital work of helping the public acknowledge and reconcile the untold stories of our past, while preserving and celebrating the Indigenous heritage of Rhode Island,” said Miaoulis.

Campbell said history has taught people that Indigenious people were killed off and forcibly moved from their homes, but it glosses over the stories of survival and resilience of Indigenious people. He said the Narragansett and Pokanoket are just two examples of many of Indigenious groups surviving in the face of racism and others trying to deny their existence; they are inspirational examples despite the many troubles they have faced.

“It’s a moment of pride. I think it’s a moment of, potentially, reconciliation, recognition of the incredible courage and resilience of Indigenous nations here in the northeast,” Campbell said.

Guy and Spears will also be receiving honorary degrees from the university. The commencement addresses will be available to view online at the RWU commencement webpage.