CATALYST FOR SOLUTIONS
Washington Park is a residential and industrial neighborhood within Providence, Rhode Island. Here, you’ll find a community of people working to better their lives each and every day. There are about 7,500 people living in Washington Park, almost half of which are of Hispanic/Latino origin. Communities of Hope started working there to help with their struggle for Environmental Justice.
West Elmwood was once the bustling home of Indigenous people who lived, fished and socialized by Mashapaug Pond. At the time of Roger Williams’s arrival, the pond was utilized by the leaders of the tribe and their members. As white settlers moved in, Indigenous people were displaced from the pond. Throughout history, the neighborhood provided a home to Black and Indigenous people of color and was repeatedly destroyed, much like the other three neighborhoods. The difference here is that the city bulldozed the neighborhood and hundreds of people were displaced and the area never fully recovered. It is a densely populated spot for lower and middle-class families and individuals, but it is not the same place as it was years ago. West Elmwood was a victim of urban development as the city evolved over time.
Fox Point has a long history and has been home to Indigenous groups for hundreds of years. This area is where Roger Williams and his companions landed after fleeing Massachusetts. The Narragansetts in the area told Williams the land was already occupied and to move further inland to settle, but Williams misunderstood what they were telling him and believed they were welcoming the new settlers with open arms and giving the land of Providence to them. The land was later secured by Williams with a deed. Fox Point has always been an important area for the Indigenous people. It is right by the water, so it was used for transportation, to gather resources and was a popular settlement spot. As the years went on Indigenous people stayed in this neighborhood and intermingled with other people of color in a safe environment. It was a community where people who did not have strong ties to their tribe could find kin. Non-natives called the Indigenous people that lived there Narangansetts, but they were not all Narangansetts. They came from different tribes and found a home in Fox Point. While the city was developing, Fox Point became a “problem area” where city officials tried to condemn the neighborhood for health reasons. The destruction of the neighborhood never lasted for long and to this day there is a population of Indigenous people that live there. Many of the Indigenous population that lived there were never able to be recognized by their tribe because they were not active members on the reservation.
upper south providence
The neighborhood of Upper South Providence was a section of the state that had some of the highest populations of Indigenious individuals in the 19th and 20th century. It was a land that provided a lot of resources and was an excellent spot for native settlements. When the white settlers came to the area and built the city, it was still partially understood that it was native land. The main section of the neighborhood was named Canonicus Square, in the Euro-American perspective, this was the name of a sachem who they tied to this urban real estate. This square was not known as Canonicus, rather everyone knew it as Hoyle Square. Throughout the history of the white settlers in the area, this square was never called Canonicus and in the 20th century people wanted to legally rename it and they did. City officials did bring a boulder found in North Burial Ground that was inscribed with the name Canonicus to the center of the area in the 1980s because the area was desolate and they wanted to bring people there. The Indigenous people were displaced from this neighborhood in 1961 after it was labeled a “slum blighted area” and 300 families and 700 individuals were removed from the neighborhood. Bringing the boulder to Hoyle Square did not attract the visitors it intended to, but it did attract Indigenious people who saw it as a homecoming, back to the area where their roots were. Indigeious people had family ties to Upper South Providence that were taken away from them when the city shut the area down. Similar to Fox Point, this was a safe area for natives and other people of color throughout history.
Lippitt Hill was home to a large population of Black and Indigenious people. Similar to the other neighborhoods, the area was not well constructed and the houses were repeatedly destroyed throughout the years. Some of that destruction came in 1831 during the Snowtown (Olney’s) Riot. This was a three night mob riot that came after a Black man murdered a Swedish sailor. This riot was more than just a random fight after a murder, it was an oppurtunity for white people to destroy the home and safe place for Black and Indigenous people of color. It was an event of unrest related to race and class as many of the people living here were poor. As the book states, it was “a tactic of spatial and ethnic cleansing, it contributed to the erasure of the tangible presence of Native people from the urban landscape and from the pages of the city’s history.” The homes and physical markers of the Indigenious population in Lippitt Hill may have been destroyed, but the foundation of the area houses the bones and artifacts from hundreds and thousands of years ago. There is evidence of settlements that have been dug up from centuries ago.