Tribe locked in power struggle over absentee chief

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — The chief of a New England tribe who spends part of the year living in Florida won’t step down after being impeached, sowing division among the Narragansett Indians, Rhode Island’s only federally recognized tribe.

Chief Sachem (SAY’-chem) Matthew Thomas is calling his detractors “imposters” after they sued him in federal court, seeking his ouster from the position he’s held for nearly two decades.

Thomas rejects his impeachment proceedings as legally invalid, noting that tribal members held the vote in a parking lot. He says the time he spends in Port Charlotte, Florida, isn’t a problem because he monitors tribal business remotely.

Paulla Dove Jennings, a former tribal councilwoman who once ran for sachem, says she wants new leadership. An attorney for the tribal council didn’t return requests for comment.