An interview with: Raymond Two Hawks Watson of the Eastern Medicine Singers and a Member of the Positive Peace Warrior Network.
By: Christopher Sionni
Our state is a kaleidoscope of racial, social, and cultural identities. Local Rhode Islanders need to be celebrating their similarities working to serve each other’s needs, and enriching their lives with cultural awareness. But most of all we need leaders in the community to guide our hands together. We need more men like Raymond Two Hawks Watson. Community activist and Renaissance man, Watson helps to create respect in the community through a number of outlets. His member ship in the Native American drum group Eastern Medicine Singers signifies and solidifies cultural ties in Rhode Island’s diverse Native American population. He serves the community as the Executive Director of the Mount Hope Neighborhood Association, and as president of the University of Rhode Island’s Alumni of Color Aossociation he leads the charge in aiding graduates in their future endeavors. While the Ocean State’s native American population is 0.6%, its members widely differ in tribal affiliation. Perhaps much can be taken from the microcosm of diversity exhibited in the “Eastern Medicine Singers” and one of its most influential spokespeople.
Who are some notable members of the Eastern Medicine Singers?
Chief Black Eagle (Pocasset Wampanoag Tribe), Chief Grey Water (Pokanoket Tribe), Artie Red Medicine (Shinikok Nation), Kathy Spirit Dancer (Ramapough)’ Ruben (Aztec), and Charles Under The Baggage III (Oglala Lakota Nation).
How did the group members meet?
When I came in, the group had already stemmed off of another drum group in the area. We started off of Eastern Algonquin and Eastern Tribes.
Why is it important to connect with the native community in Rhode Island?
This where I’m from, I’m Narragansett. I think it’s important to know one’s history. ive learned a lot about myself. It took my grandmother’s death, unfortunately, to motivate me to learn. It’s an honor to be part of this (community) because we are not our west native culture. That is like comparing California to Rhode Island.
Can Native American camaraderie and cultural appreciation be a powerful example for other ethnic groups in Rhode Island?
Yes, I think it is, and I think it should be. When you go to any other place…in Africa, Asia…you learn about African and Asian cultures. In native culture, when you are out east you know your culture…know your people…you represent them.
Describe a Pow Wow.
It’s a social and spiritual gathering. A lot of natives consider it like going to church. It could also be a means of finding the special someone (smiles). Drumming is a big part of it, yes, but dancing and crafts as well. It came from tribes being cooped up for awhile, and then you came together (for those reasons).
What is your tribal heritage?
Narragansett and African American. Grew up in an urban environment and knew more about the Native American side.
What are your goals and responsibilities at the Mont Hope Neighborhood Association?
To make sure Mont Hope is being served every day for everyday problems. I consider it a center of service and development for the neighborhood.
Absolutely. Young people in general. A youth is a youth and we all need some one to look up to for guidance. Growing up I didn’t see just native or black role models. If you consider yourself a man that should be one of your priorities, and like i said, not just for “yours”.
What is your favorite non-tribal music?
Hip Hop and R&B
Worst Native American stereotype?
That we all have long flowing locks, that there is a specific native look.
Favorite part about Rhode Island?
Rhode Island? I like Rhode Island for its diversity. I like Rhode Island because wherever I go someone will be interested in me and (from other states) don’t know what to expect from someone from Rhode Island. I also like seeing people I know.