Sowams Heritage Area talks generate significant interest

Posted 4/12/24

More than 130 people attended the Community Conversations presented by the Sowams Heritage Area Project in Bristol and Seekonk recently.

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Sowams Heritage Area talks generate significant interest


More than 130 people attended the Community Conversations presented by the Sowams Heritage Area Project at the Seekonk Public Library, in Seekonk, Mass. on March 26, 2024, and Mt. Hope Farm in Bristol, RI on March 27, 2024.

Both events were packed with people from the region known as Sowams, the ancestral homeland of the Massasoit Ousamequin, who welcomed the Pilgrims in 1621.

They came to discuss the future of the proposed Sowams National Heritage Area (NHA) and its impact on the nine towns/cities in the NHA study area: Barrington, Bristol, East Providence, a portion of Providence, and Warren, RI, as well as Rehoboth, Seekonk, Somerset, and Swansea, Mass.

“The ideas were flying,” said Laura McNamara, Director of Events and Community Engagement for the Blackstone Valley Tourism Council, who was one of the Sowams Project Steering Committee members tasked with recording one of the break-out sessions. “There was an impressive and diverse range of people that included environmentalists, historians, Tribal members, business owners, preservationists, religious leaders, artists and writers, civil servants, and two toddlers!”

This was the second of three rounds of public conversations that are integral to the development of an NHA feasibility study, which the National Park Service recommends when seeking designation by Congress as a National Heritage Area. The discussions were organized in a SOAR analysis, focusing on the region’s Strengths, Opportunities, Aspirations, and desired Results.

There was broad consensus in both sessions that as the setting for one of America’s origin stories, the history of Sowams is significant and compelling. Many saw opportunities in taking advantage of the region’s vibrant arts community to help tell the story of Sowams. Looking towards the future, the group envisioned a region whose land, water and heritage sites are preserved for the next generation, so families and especially teenagers will understand what happened on this landscape. As one participant said, “Years from now, Sowams can be a place to hear a story that no one else can tell.”

Highlights of the sessions and a full list of the discussion notes can be found at The next and last Community Conversation will be in held in the fall when the planning team presents the draft feasibility study for public comment.

2024 by East Bay Media Group

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A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.