May 23, 2024

Regional Initiative Generates Public Interest in a Sowams Heritage Area


More than 130 people attended the Community Conversations presented by the Sowams Heritage Area Project at the Seekonk Public Library, in Seekonk, MA 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, MA.

“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 on website. 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.

About the Sowams Heritage Area Project:
Led by a regional coalition of town planners, tourism entities, historical societies, environmentalists, Tribal leaders, and other volunteers, the Sowams Heritage Area Project is undertaking an initiative to develop a National Heritage Area (NHA) in Sowams, the ancestral homeland of the Massasoit Ousamequin who welcomed the Pilgrims in 1621. NHAs protect and promote a region’s history, heritage and culture and use those assets to advance local economies through tourism, recreation and community development. For more information, go to


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