Chief Ninigret/THE EASY CHAIR A Sun series focusing on people you should know

Chief Ninigret/THE EASY CHAIR A Sun series focusing on people you should know

The Westerly Sun

AGE: About 417 years old. I was born in the 1600s.

OCCUPATION: Chief Sachem of the Niantic-Narragansett Tribe and caretaker of this great state.

RESIDENCE: I currently reside in the Spirit World. I will never die as I will live in the hearts of my people — the Niantic-Narragansett — until the ocean runs dry. Watch Hill was my place of residence in life, where the Holiday House/Taylor Swift/old Harkness Home stands today.

BORN, RAISED & GREW UP IN: What is currently know as Southern Rhode Island.

RIGHT NOW I’M IN THE MIDDLE OF: Watching the young sailors take off for lessons in their Optimists.

FAVORITE WAY TO SPEND MY TIME: Resting in peace and welcoming visitors to Watch Hill.

PROUDEST ACCOMPLISHMENT: I was at peace with the early settlers as we walked together on this land in peace.

I’D LIKE TO BE REMEMBERED FOR: Being an important statue in a park so many people enjoy visiting.

TOP ON MY BUCKET LIST: To remain in Watch Hill for generations to come.

ALWAYS IN MY POCKET: Native Americans carried pouches, we didn’t have pockets. Our pouches contained four things that were important to us; such as a kernel of corn, a cedar twig, a wampum quahog shell, or an arrowhead. Once we placed the items in our pouches, we did not speak of what we chose to include.

WHAT I WANTED TO BE WHEN I GREW UP: A great tribal leader like my elders were before me. I descend from the royal bloodline of my people.

EXPERIENCES THAT HAVE INFLUENCED ME THE MOST: Standing in front of my wigwam, which stood where the Holiday House/Taylor Swift/Harkness house now stands, and gazing out toward Block Island and Long Island, viewing sunsets, the calm seas and the rough seas, the various birds passing by and the fish runs along the shore.

FAVORITE AUTHOR: Oral history was the way of my people. I learned from my elders. My father, Sasicous, and my older brother, Wepitamock, Sachem of the Niantics, were both leaders before me.

I AM READING: I was not able to read your words. I learned to judge a person by their actions and their hand shakes.

I AM LISTENING TO: I used to listen to the trees, wind, ocean, birds, father sky with its thunder and mother earth. Each told me what my day would be. Today, my statue located at the Watch Hill village green allows me to listen to the sounds of waves splashing against the sea wall.

FAVORITE MOVIE: I lived in a time before what you now call movies. My movies were Mother Nature and were very real. They changed from day to day as she changed things before our eyes ... and still does ... if you take the time to watch. I watched dancing clouds, swaying grass, pretty birds, bees gathering nectar, wild animals passing nearby, grandfather spotted turtle moving every so slowly, and to top it off the rainbows in Father Sky.

FAVORITE TV SHOW: I lived before the days of television. Mother earth and Father sky prepared all our shows on a very large screen. The cloudy days told us what the weather would be; the sun told us the time of day, the ocean told us high and low tides, birds told us when spring had arrived, ducks and geese heading south told us that winter was approaching. They each worked in universe with one another. Watch Hill is a good place to view these shows as the season changes.

FAVORITE PET: The Europeans brought us the dog. Please keep your dog on a leash when around my statue.

FAVORITE COMFORT FOOD: Fresh fish, oysters, lobsters, quahogs, clams, mussels, and most saltwater food.

AMOUNT OF TIME I SPEND ON SOCIAL MEDIA: In my time period we were required to be seen and heard among our people ... and with the settlers who lived among us. Daily. Face to face.

TRAIT I MOST ADMIRE: Caring for Mother Earth. We were told we were the caretakers. Watch Hill is a good example of that. A very well kept area.

PET PEEVE: My statue being moved around five times by someone who had bad taste in paint.

FAVORITE QUOTATION: “To my face they talk behind my back.” Passed down from Indian elders in just these words.

MY FAVORITE THING ABOUT OUR LITTLE CORNER OF THE WORLD: It’s God country, many famous people have visited Watch Hill over the years to rest and relax as well as to view my statue.

CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT: My statue — it makes me a permanent part of Watch Hill.

LITTLE KNOWN FACT ABOUT ME: I left a footprint for many to follow; the Royal Bloodline of the Niantic-Narragansett which is still alive today, after over 417 years.

BEST ADVICE I EVER RECEIVED: “We are the caretakers of this great land,” and “Don’t judge a person until you have walked in their footsteps.”

ADVICE I BEST LIKE TO GIVE: Make sure to visit the Summer Boutique sponsored by my caretakers, the Watch Hill Memorial Library & Improvement Society, on Aug. 4 and 5 when more than 20 vendors will converge under a tent overlooking the harbor in our charming village.

IF I RULED THE WORLD I WOULD: Help restore peace.

IF I WON THE LOTTERY, THE FIRST THING I WOULD DO IS: I have already won the lottery: being born into the Royal Bloodline of my people and becoming leader of my tribe.

I DRIVE: In my day, back in the 1600s we paddled dugouts and canoes.

I WISH I DROVE: I would stay with my old canoe as it was the fastest way to travel on water.

ALWAYS IN MY FRIDGE: They were called root cellars in my day, and I would store what is known as the three sisters: Corn, beans, and squash.

IF I COULD HOST A DINNER PARTY WITH A GROUP OF PEOPLE FROM THE PAST, PRESENT OR FUTURE I WOULD INVITE: All the current local tribal leaders in hopes of having them work together more closely.

— Retold through the eyes of Chief Sachem Byron Brown and his granddaughter Summer Brown-Gonsalves, descendants of Chief Ninigret, with contributions from members of the Watch Hill Memorial Library & Improvement Society. Edited by Nancy Burns-Fusaro


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