Friday, February 29, 2008

Narragansett Smoke Shop Trial To Begin

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The trial for seven Narragansett Indians who scuffled with Rhode Island State police in a 2003 raid of their smoke shop will begin Friday.

Chief Sachem Matthew Thomas and six other Narragansetts were arrested July 14, 2003 when their Charleston, R.I., smoke shop was raided for not collecting state taxes on cigarrettes sold there. The charges range from disorderly conduct to assault.

A federal appeals court ruled the smoke shop was operating illegally because it had agreed to abide by state laws in return for recieving 1,800 acres of land in 1978. The Narragansetts began selling the cigarrettes after their bid for a casino business fell through.

Defense attorneys argued that the trial should not take place in southern Rhode Island because of a history of bad blood there dating to a 1675 massacre of Narragansett Indians.

Land-Into-Trust Issue Goes To U.S. Supreme Court

By Ken Davison

The U.S. Supreme Court announced Monday that it will hear a case that could dramatically alter the way the federal government adds land to certain Indian reservations.

The State of Rhode Island is challenging the U.S. Department of the Interior's 1998 decision to take a 31-acre parcel of land in Charleston, R.I., into trust on behalf of the Narragansett Tribe as reservation land for tribal housing.

The law that gives the federal government the authority to take land into trust on behalf of Indian tribes is called the Indian Reorganization Act (IRA) of 1936. The State of Rhode Island insists that the Narragansetts and every other Indian tribe federally recognized after 1936 are not eligible under the IRA law to have land taken into trust by the Secretary of the Interior and that instead Congress must approve the land deals. The Narragansett Tribe was federally recognized in 1983.

The plaintiff in the case (Carcieri vs. Dick Kempthorne) is Rhode Island Governor Donald Carcieri and the defendant is the U.S. Secretary of the Interior Dick Kempthorne.

Under the IRA, Congress authorized the Secretary of the Interior "in his discretion" to acquire and take into trust for Indian tribes "any interest in lands . . . within or without existing reservations . . . for the purpose of providing land for Indians."

The IRA defines an "Indian" as "all persons of Indian descent who are members of any recognized Indian tribe now under Federal jurisdiction." Since the effective date of the IRA law is 1936, the State of Rhode Island is arguing that tribes that were federally recognized after that date are not covered by the IRA and cannot have land taken into trust on their behalf by the Secretary of the Interior.

Also at stake in the case is whether the Department of the Interior can take land into trust for tribes after their aboriginal land rights were extinguished by an act of Congress.

Three years ago, the Supreme Court ruled that the Oneida Nation in New York lost its sovereignty over the ancestral reservation due to the passage of time.

"A tribe losing its ability to exercise sovereign control over land through an act of Congress may only regain that control by a subsequent act of Congress," according to the state's February 5 brief.

Dozens of tribes have been federally recognized since 1936.

Connecticut Lawmakers Propose Smoking Ban On Reservation Casinos

Feather News

A state lawmaker who said she was approached by representatives from the United Auto Workers is sponsoring legislation to ban smoking at the Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods casinos.

State Sen. Mary Ann Handley, D-Manchester, co-chairwoman of the legislature's public health committee, said she saw a chance to respond to concerns about secondhand smoke by making a smoking ban a condition of the liquor licenses issued to the two casinos.

The tribe's sovereignty, in part, kept them from being included in a 2003 state law that banned smoking at Connecticut restaurants and bars.

Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal told the Hartford Courant that a smoking ban could be tied up for years in costly litigation unless a deal was reached with the Tribes. In a press conference today Blumenthal told the gathering, "This is historic in its scope, and you're going to make history at the casinos."

Blumenthal said, "As sure as I am standing here, the casinos will be smoke-free."

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Tribes In The Media Series: Mohegan Federal Funding Questioned

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Team 5 Investigates Uncovers Indian Money Grab
Millions of Dollars Go to Casino Rich Tribes; Others Get Next to Nothing

BOSTON -- Gamblers know this saying well: The house always wins.

In the case of Indian gaming, casinos don't just win your money at the slots; they get millions from your tax dollars, too.

"They shouldn't be getting subsidies from taxpayers who don't make that kind of money," said Barbara Anderson from Citizens for Limited Taxation. What a jackpot it's been for the country's two richest tribal casinos. Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun each roll in an estimated $1 billion dollar a year, tax free. Despite all their riches, the federal government continues to pay them millions in grants.

"Is this fair to taxpayers?" asked Team 5 Investigates Sean Kelly.

"Sure, you could say that the federal government would be happy to ensure that every member of the tribe is getting the median family income for the area," Anderson said. "But beyond that, I can't see why we owe them an extremely lucrative lifestyle."

Life is good for the Mashantucket Pequots who operate Foxwoods Resort and Casino. Some tribe members live in a gated, country club -style setting complete with swimming pools, tennis courts and a golf course.

Team 5 Investigates obtained documents that show how much your tax dollars contribute to this affluent way of life. Over the last five years the tribe collected $16,970,210 in federal grants. More than $170 thousand of it paid for road maintenance and shoveling. Almost $2 million went to their fire and police departments. Other grants included: $1.6 million for archaeology projects, $82,000 to study fox and rabbit populations and $10,000 to support a basket weaving tour.
A spokesman for the Pequots declined Team 5's request for an on- camera interview. But the tribe defended its windfall in federal funds, saying there's no difference between a sovereign nation state receiving grant money and any other state, including Massachusetts, that does the exact same thing.

House rules at Mohegan Sun are different. "We were the first tribe actually to go to Washington and say, 'You know what? We want to bring back this check," said Charles Bunnell, chief of staff for the Mohegan tribe.

While the tribe did give back almost $5 million over the last five years, records show they've kept $8.4 million. That money paid mostly for health services, $6.8 million worth. More than $500,000 paid for homeland security costs and a quarter of a million went to firefighters.

Roughly three days worth of slot machine revenue could have paid all of that combined.

"How do you justify taking any federal grant money?" asked Kelly. "There are 2,000 Mohegans that rely on Mohegan Sun as a tax base and it may not always be here," said Bunnell. "And there's some fear among the Mohegans if they cut all ties to the federal government then they will lose the opportunity, if needed, to make sure that the money that was promised to them is available," Bunnell said.

Far from any card shuffling is Nipmuc Nation Chief Walter Vickers in South Grafton, MA. "The way the money is going right now," said Vickers, "I don't believe it's fair."

His tribe's transportation business is stalled. And almost everything on their four-acre reservation needs to be repaired."We're just trying to survive as a tribe," said Vickers.

The Nipmucs have tried for 30 years to get federal recognition. Without it, they're shut out of grants and they fall further behind other tribes. "I'm not going to begrudge them of what they're getting but I think it could be thinned out a little bit and shared with others," said Vickers.

Tribes don't apply for every dollar they receive. Some of it is earmarked for them. To be clear, there's nothing illegal going on here. The question is whether the way the money is distributed is fair. "If we're going to do favors for the Indians to make up for the broken treaties then all the Indians should be benefiting, not just a few people at the top, and unfortunately, that's not often the way it works," said Anderson.

While some argue this money is owed to the tribes to make up for the government's seizure of their land centuries ago, others believe it's time for Congress to change the grant formula so the money will go to the tribes who truly need it the most.

Copyright 2008 by All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Third Largest Casino Resort Workforce At Mohegan Sun

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The Mohegan Sun has the third largest casino workforce, surpassed only by Foxwoods and the Casino de Genting in Malaysia. The top ten gaming establishments by number of employees:

1. Casino de Genting (Malaysia) – 13,000
2. Foxwoods Resort Casino (Connecticut) – 10,220
3. Mohegan Sun Casino (Connecticut) – 10,000
4. Bellagio (Las Vegas) – 9,700
5. MGM Grand (Las Vegas) – 9,000
6. Mandalay Bay (Las Vegas) – 8,000
7. Sands Macao (China) – 8,000
8. Caesar's Palace (Las Vegas) – 7,500
9. Borgata (Atlantic City) – 7,000
10. Atlantis Resort and Casino (Bahamas) – 6,500

As of November 2007, the Mohegan Sun ranked second in the most parking spaces of any casino resort with 13,000. The most parking spaces are at the Sandia Resort and Casino in Albuquerque, N.M. with 13,470 spaces followed by the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Fl. with 10,000 and Foxwoods with 9,800.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Tribe's Expansion Budget Increases Approved By Bankers

Feather News

The vision of Mohegan Sun becoming a world-class destination coupled with increased gaming competition in the Northeast resulted in a November 2006 tribal annnouncement for a massive expansion planned at its Connecticut casino. The $800 million expansion budget was increased to $925 million in recent months and the tribe's bankers approved on Feb. 13 a total Connecticut expansion budget up to $950 million.

The expansion budget at the Mohegan's Pocono Downs facility in Pennsylvania was also increased from the $140 to $150 million budget announced in November 2006 to $215 million, also approved by the tribe's bankers on Feb 13.

The tribe asked for a $5 million grant from a Pennsylvania economic development fund that was set up out of Pennsylvania casino revenues and designated to be used for health and development projects in the state. The tribe's $5 million request would be used to remove garbage to enlarge the parking lot at the Pocono Downs facility and it has created a controversy over whether the tribe should be awarded such a large grant out of that fund, according to the Times Leader. The $5 million grant, if approved, would deplete half of the $10 million in funds available under the program.

Follow the controversy in the Times Leader newspaper articles:

December 2007 Feather News expansion budget article:

This Week's Feb 27 Tribal Council Meeting Will Begin At 1:00 P.M.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Mohegan Matriarch Virginia Damon Passes Away

Indian Country Today newspaper printed the following obituary on my grandmother Virginia Damon:

Indian Country Today
Gale Courey Toensing

UNCASVILLE, Conn. - Virginia Hope Sword Damon, a Mohegan elder who advocated on behalf of American Indians and devoted years to her tribe's efforts to achieve federal recognition, died on Feb. 18 at the age of 91.

Born in Worchester, Mass., on Aug. 1, 1916, Virginia Hope was the daughter of William Fredric Sword and his wife, Beatrice H. Hamilton. She attended Rhode Island and Connecticut schools, graduating from Johnson and Wales Business School in 1936. In 1939, she married Harland L. Damon. The couple settled in Niantic, Conn., where she led an active life of working and volunteerism.

Virginia Hope was a Girl Scout leader for many years and active in town activities. She taught Red Cross classes after World War II and during the Korean War. For the 1965 World Fair, she made the regalia and participated as part of the Bride Brook pageant, with the East Lyme Arts Council. She was a long time member and Executive Office of Secretary of the Niantic branch of Business and Professional Women. She was a member of the Order of Eastern Star and a Rebekah of the I.O.O.F. in the Niantic lodge. She worked tirelessly for Save the Children Organization, and helped out at an area collection point for donations of clothing during times of disaster.

She was an active member of St. John's Episcopal Church, Niantic; All Saints Episcopal Church, East Hartford; and a member in good standing with Christ Episcopal Church of Norwich.

Throughout the 1940s and '50s, she was active in the family business. She later worked in the accounting department for Sears and then in a New London certified public accountant's office. In the 1960s, she worked with Eva Butler, a co-founder of the Indian and Colonial Research Center. Virginia Hope worked for 2 years with American Indians for Development in Meriden, Conn. She was active in lobbying in the late 1960s for the Connecticut Council of Indian Affairs, and she had an early involvement with the National Congress of American Indians.

In 1967, she was the secretary and a leading force in the Descendants of the Tribe of Mohegan Indians of Connecticut, and in 1970, led the nominations supporting Courtland Fowler for Chief. She served as secretary to the Mohegan Tribe through the 1970s and early '80s. She devoted herself to the cause of federal recognition, in the tribe's first effort of 1984, and in the later successful bid of 1994.

Virginia Hope's Mohegan name was ''Singing Woman.''

She was a Nonner of the Mohegan Tribe, and the 1997 recipient of The Little Hatchet award. Virginia Hope is survived by her four daughters: Faith Marie Damon Davison of Uncasville, with whom she made her home; Cheryl Irene Damon Harris of East Haven; Christine Ann Damon Murtha and her husband, Philip, of Norwich; and Sharon Inez Damon Maynard and her husband, Raymond, of New London. She was predeceased by her husband, Harland; her brother, Norman Eugene Sword, a half-sister, Carol Labensky, and two grandsons, Douglass Harland Davison and Aaron Sword Murtha.

''She was an example to all of us,'' said Faith Marie Damon Davison. ''Her grandchildren will always remember their weekend trips with Virginia and her mother, Beatrice, to the many Indian gatherings throughout the Northeast, her concern for the future of all tribes, and also they will remember her fierce championship of truth. She will be sadly missed by her many grandchildren, great-grandchildren, great-great-grandchildren and her companion, Donald.''

In honoring Virginia Hope's wishes the family requested that those living should benefit rather than have money spent in tribute to the deceased. So in lieu of flowers, donations in her memory may be made to: Save the Children, 54 Wilton Rd., Westport, CT 06880; Animal Welfare League of New London County, Inc. P.O. Box 1760 Groton, CT 06340; Christ Episcopal Church 78 Washington Street, Norwich, CT 06360; or a charity of one's choice.

Funeral services were scheduled to take place at Christ Episcopal Church in Norwich Feb. 23.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Winter Weather Advisory In Effect For Region

The National Weather Service has issued a winter weather advisory for the region. Snow is expected to begin later this afternoon and change over to sleet and freezing rain through Wednesday morning.

Tomorrow's Tribal Council Meeting Cancelled

MTGA Quarterly Profit Falls 38%

Feather News
February 8, 2008
Revised: February 12, 2008

The Tribe's business arm, Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority (MTGA), reported a 38% decrease in profits for the first quarter of fiscal year 2008 compared to the same period last year, according to a report made public last week.

MTGA reported $23.7 million in net income for the three-month period of October 1, 2007 through December 31, 2007 while last year's quarterly profit was $37.9 million.

MTGA would have reached its "pre-2001 Sunburst expansion" profit levels in recent years had losses related to the tribe's diversification efforts not been taken into account. The tribe has easily lost over $100 million between accumulated losses at Pocono Downs and the total expense of the MTGA department that was set up to oversee the diversification efforts. That's almost $100,000 per adult tribal member.

The above loss doesn't include the hundreds of millions of dollars, largely borrowed, to buy the Pocono Downs and for construction on that site.

The diversification program losses increased last quarter, according to the report released last week. The MTGA department that oversees the diversification efforts, labeled the 'corporate department' on the MTGA income statement, has been costing an average of around $10 million per year but its expense more than doubled in the first quarter. This was due, in part, to setting aside a reserve to help cushion against potential denials of Indian casino projects in other states in which the tribe has development and management agreements. Additionally, losses at the Pocono Downs widened in the quarter. The most direct competitor yet to the tribe's Pocono Downs in Pennsylvania opened their doors in the middle of the quarter - in October - and patrons flocked to the new casino, located about 20 miles away as the crow flies.

The Feather News will provide further analysis on the quarterly report soon.

Other resources:
MTGA's Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filing can be found at:

The above filing includes MTGA's income statement. A more complete filing for the quarter (which will include the balance sheet, the cash flow statement and more supporting information) is expected soon.

MTGA's press release on the quarterly earnings, which is much briefer than the SEC report but gives reasons for some of the variances, can be found at:

The Hartford Courant, The Norwich Bulletin and The Day newspaper articles on the quarterly earnings can be found on the below links. Notice that none of the articles, which cover MTGA's quarterly earnings report released last week, actually mentions the earnings for the quarter. One of the articles erroneously reports that the Pocono Downs is profitable because the reporter fails to take into consideration the immense interest expense and other costs associated with the Pocono property.,0,1157223.story

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

To Mohegan With Love: Penn National's New Pa. Casino To Open Before St. Valentine's Day

Feather News

Penn National, the firm that sold the Pocono Downs racetrack to the Mohegan Tribe, is scheduled to open their Pennsylvania slot parlor on Tuesday, February 12, two days before St. Valentine's Day.

The casino opening is subject to the approval of the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, which will be monitoring two nights of test-runs on February 8 and 10. Penn National's slot parlor will have 2,000 slot machines

The $310 million new casino and track facility is now called "Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course" and is in Grantville, close to Harrisburgh, Pa.

Penn National's headquarters is in Wyomissing, Pa. In 2002, Penn National bought Hollywood Casino Corporation (which owned and operated casinos in Illinois, Mississippi and Indiana) for a total value of $780 million (total of net cash paid and debt assumed). The purchase would double Penn's annual revenue at that time to $1 billion, according to Penn officials at the time of that purchase.

Oregon Activist Refers To Mohegans As A "Resuscitated" Tribe

Feather News

Mohegans may no longer be described as "lurking" but in a letter to an Oregon newspaper yesterday, the Mohegans were erroneously described as "resuscitated" by one anti-casino activist. Just for the record ... I personally may have witnessed some Mohegan tribal members lurking, maybe I haven't, I ain't sayin', but the point is whether we should or shoudn't do something about the letter this guy wrote to the Oregon paper.

For some Oregon readers, this letter may be the only thing they read about our tribe. If that's the case, they would be wildly misinformed about the nation of Mohegan. This, I think, makes it different from letters to local Connecticut newspapers where there is a much wider coverage of our tribe.

Perhaps we could see a polite but educational response from our tribal government to set the record straight to the Oregon public that we are not "resuscitated." Some of the Oregon market, after all, will be part of the customer base in a possible Cowlitz casino in the state of Washington in which the Mohegans would recieve fees.

The activist goes on to describe the Mashantucket Pequots as "reinvented." All of our communities reinvent themselves in some manner or other over time and perhaps the author should have pointed that out in his letter. Communities evolve and that is far desireable to the reverse.

We owe it to those who fought and those who continue to fight for our tribe's existence and excellence to publically defend our tribal nation's true reputation: that we have existed for centuries under conditions much different from the tribes recognizable to the Oregon readers.

The full letter is below:

Guest Viewpoint
Recession will expose state’s gaming habit
By Arnold Buchman Published: Published: February 4, 2008 04:38AMPublished:

Connecticut provides a cautionary tale as an industry-wide downturn in gambling revenues foreshadows the end of a long winning streak for that state’s taxpayers. Two casinos, among the world’s largest, that replaced hardscrabble chicken farms in rural eastern Connecticut came up $10.5 million short for the month of December in their year-over-year contributions to the state’s coffers. Oregon would do well to take note.

The contributions to Connecticut’s general fund are the winnings from a deal struck 20 years ago by a shrewd governor of the state once known as the Land of Steady Habits. He was smart enough to negotiate a piece of the action from the gambling industry sponsors of a reinvented Mashantucket Pequot tribe. In exchange for the old state-tribal gambling compact, the deal gives Connecticut 25 percent of the slot action at the Foxwoods Casino. Several years later, the state doubled down by duplicating the deal with sponsors of the resuscitated Mohegan tribe for its Mohegan Sun Casino.

December’s $10.5 million shortfall was bad news for a state that today has a steady habit of dependency on its fourth-largest general fund revenue source: legalized gambling. Tribal gambling, unlike casinos in Las Vegas and Atlantic City, pays no state or local taxes. At the same time, it adds to the burden on government programs and services.

The downturn in gambling reflects bad news as well for every state that has become dependent on gambling — whether through compact payments, state-run slots or electronic lottery games. Nationwide, as reported by USA Today, there was one slot machine in operation on Jan. 1 for every 395 Americans.

The number is growing by the tens of thousands as states scramble for more cash. California and Florida want to “compact” their way to a bigger piece of tribal casino action, and Maryland wishes to have slots at its race courses. Indiana, Kansas, New York and Oklahoma will significantly increase slots this year. Legislators in Massachusetts, Kentucky and Texas are clamoring to join the party.

Oregon, which lacked the foresight to negotiate Connecticut-style compacts, will not directly participate in any casino revenue downturn. But downturn or not, Oregon suffers a budget drag created by the social costs of gambling and the indirect costs of tax- and regulation-free competition to its tax-paying small businesses from wide-ranging, casino-funded enterprises. To boost its gambling take, Oregon’s governor introduced perniciously addictive video slot games to its lottery.

Like Connecticut, Oregon faces a national recession. But Oregon’s revenues have been shorted as well by curtailment of federal timber revenues. At the same time, the federal Office of Management and Budget shows $100 million a year in federal “assistance” is going to Oregon’s cash-soaked casino tribes.

Tribal casino operators are confident they will survive the downturn. After all, casino gambling is said to be recession-resistant. But a lottery-dependent Oregon budget — insidiously weighted down by the silent impacts of its tribal casinos — has as much chance of beating the recession odds as the blue-haired lady pumping quarters into the slot machine has of beating the house odds.

Gambling revenue comes largely from the community’s poorest and most vulnerable at great social costs in addiction, bankruptcy, spousal abuse and crime. It’s time for Oregon’s governor and Legislature to own up to the state’s lottery dependency, for Congress to revisit tribal gambling immunity and for government to readopt the steady habits that reject the fantasy that an ongoing ability to meet budget responsibilities is just one more slot spin away.

Written By:
Arnold Buchman of Florence is a former spokesman for People Against a Casino Town.

The article can be found at the Register-Guard newspaper of Oregon:

Monday, February 4, 2008

McCain and Other U.S. Presidential Candidates Court Connecticut

By Ken Davison
Updated February 4, 2007

Three of the candidates for the presidency of the United States have had glancing contact with the Mohegan Tribe.

Former President Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton visited the Mohegan reservation upon the public opening of the Sunburst casino expansion in 2001. Former President Clinton was the sitting president in 1994 when the Mohegans were federally-recognized.

U.S. Senator John McCain, a member of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, has blasted the Bureau of Indian Affairs in public hearings for allowing the Mohegan's former casino manager, Trading Cove Associates, to extract "exorbitant" fees in their current contract with the Mohegan Tribe. McCain, a long-time advocate for American Indians, also served as chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee.

McCain's Republican rival, Mitt Romney, tried to extort the tribe while he was the governor of Massachusetts, according to tribal councilor Mark Brown. Romney at one time proposed that the Indian tribes in Connecticut - Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan - pay the state of Massachusetts fees for as long as Massachusetts avoided legalizating casino gambling.

John McCain's wife, Cindi McCain, plays an active role in helping the people of Afghanistan overcome the tragedies of war. Cindi is on the board of trustees for the HALO Trust, which is an agency that removes landmines in that country through the help of about 2,500 Afghan employees. During the time I worked for that agency, I saw people returning to villages that, in some cases, had been abandoned since the war with the Soviets in the eighties because landmines had prevented their families from living there safely. The agency also clears explosive and other war debris from former battlefields, items which have been known to attract the curiousity of Afghan children with fatal consequences.

The photo above shows the Hindu Kush mountains, looking north from my bedroom at the time in Kabul, Afghanistan. The Soviet Union built the highest tunnel in the world in Hindu Kush mountains, an artery through which they later used to invade the country. The Afghan staff remember Cindi McCain for her modesty and not wanting any special treatment during her visit there.

Polls in Connecticut are open from 6 a.m. until 8 p.m. on Tuesday.

Future Kansas Casinos Pass Legal Hurdle

Feather News

The new gambling law in Kansas, which permits commercial casino licenses under a process in which the Mohegans are now bidding, was upheld last week in Shawnee County district court.

Judge Charles Andrews ruled the new gambling law, which permits casinos, falls under the Kansas Constitution's definition of permitted gambling as a "state-owned and operated lottery" because the state has reserved for itself in the new gambling law the decision-making and control over important aspects, such as casino ownership and operation.

The attorney general for Kansas, Steven Six, said he will appeal the decision to the Kansas Supreme Court. An appeal could delay casino gambling in the state unless the matter is expedited in the Supreme Court.

The gambling law allows for four state-owned casino resorts and slot machines at dog and horse tracks in Kansas in addition to the existing Indian gaming in that state.

The Mohegan Tribe, and their partners, submitted a proposal to build a $770 million casino resort in the Wyandotte County-Kansas City region. The Mohegan group is competing against three other groups for one of the casino licenses. Winning applicants are to be selected by March 25th but that date could be extended.

Fire At Prominent Narragansett Indian Home

The Providence Journal
reported yesterday that flames destroyed the 1880 Charleston home where Russell G. Spears, 90, and his late wife, Grace, raised 12 children. Spears is the patriarch of a prominent Narragansett Indian family, many known for their skill as stone masons.

Spears, his daughter Sky Lark Spears, and her friend, Robert Bernard, escaped. Spears was under observation in the intensive care unit at Westerly Hospital. Family members said yesterday he has high blood pressure, but that they expected him to be released soon.

The Charlestown fire heavily damaged a home that held many memories for the Spears family and fellow members of the Narragansett Indian tribe. Firefighters were called to 19 Kings Factory Rd. around midnight Wednesday to a chimney fire in the wood-frame home. Flames on the first floor quickly spread into the walls of the two-story structure.

About 35 firefighters fought the blaze, using tankers filled with water from a pond in Ninigret Park, and 2 were injured. The fire was linked to a chimney that was connected to two working wood stoves, said Lt. Patrick J. McMahon.

A stream of friends and family visited the site, remembering climbing the apple tree, bathing in a nearby brook and being regaled by Ellison “Tarzan” Brown, the legendary Narragansett who twice won the Boston Marathon and competed in the 1936 Olympics in Germany.

—Providence Journal, compiled from reports by staff writers Rich Salit, Maria Armental and staff writer Brandie Jefferson.