Narragansett Chief Sachem: ‘Impostor’ tribal council trying to seize power

Longtime Narragansett Tribal Chief Sachem Matthew Thomas

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Narragansett Chief Sachem Matthew Thomas is calling out several of the tribe’s members who have filed a federal lawsuit asking the court to uphold Thomas’ impeachment.

Thomas, who has been the chief of the tribe for nearly two decades, sent out a statement calling on the “Imposter [sic] tribal council to end their political charade.”

“It is quite disheartening to see this very small group of dissident members defying their own tribal court system in a misguided attempt to seize power from the lawfully constituted tribal government,” Thomas said in the statement. “Unfortunately these dissident members have attempted to perpetrate a fraud on their fellow tribal members, as well as the media and the general public.”

The new council voted to impeach Thomas October 1, making a number of claims against him, including that he is currently a Florida resident. Target 12 reported last December that Thomas is registered to vote in Florida. According to several tribe members, including Election Council member Darlene Monroe, tribe rules require the chief to live in the state of Rhode Island or within a 50-mile radius.

In an interview with Eyewitness News on Thursday, Chief Sachem Thomas brushed aside the residency issue, calling it “irrelevant,” and adding that U.S. boundaries having nothing to do with the tribe, which is a sovereign nation.

“I live in Rhode Island, but I also live in Florida,” Thomas said, confirming that he is registered to vote there. “It’s one of the luxuries you have as an American citizen.” Thomas said he spends more time in Rhode Island than Florida.

Thomas also brushed aside concerns from the group that impeached him.

“I mean, people didn’t like Obama, they tried to impeach him. They tried to impeach Clinton. They’re trying to impeach me. Everybody isn’t going to like me, and that’s fine,” he said.

He says the impeachment was illegal because of a tribal court decision.

“It seems to me that everyone recognizes this court except these disgruntled dissidents,” Thomas said.

Darlene Monroe says her faction of the tribe does not believe the tribal court exists, citing a Freedom of Information Act request she sent to the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs requesting information on the court. The FOIA request came back claiming there were “no records” pertaining to the court.

“The council impeached him on October 1,” she said. “The Feds have to come in and tell him, ‘the people have voted you out.’

In the federal lawsuit, the group is asking that court to order Thomas to give up his post and to declare the July election valid.