After 350 Years, Tribe Gets Land in Virginia Back

Donors, wildlife conservancy helped return land to the Rappahannock Tribe
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 5, 2022 5:56 PM CDT
After 350 Years, Tribe Gets Land in Virginia Back
Conservancy president Joel Dunn calls the site the "Yosemite of the Chesapeake."   (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

A majestic site in eastern Virginia has been returned to the Rappahannock Tribe more than 350 years after they were forced from their ancestral lands by English settlers. Some 465 acres of land was officially returned to the tribe Friday, including a stretch of Rappahannock River frontage known as Fones Cliffs, the Washington Post reports. The Chesapeake Conservancy environmental group bought the land for $4 million with help from donors and gave the land title to the tribe, reports the Smithsonian.

The site—which had been earmarked for a luxury housing development—is an important nesting site for bald eagles, which are sacred to the tribe. Conservancy president Joel Dunn says he calls the "stunningly beautiful" site the "Yosemite of the Chesapeake." The tribe plans to place the land in trust with the Bureau of Indian Affairs and make it accessible to the public. The tribe plans to "create trails and a replica 16th-century village, where Tribal members can educate the public about their history and Indigenous approaches to conservation," the Interior Department said in a statement. The tribe encountered English explorer at the site in 1608.

The tribe, which was federally recognized in 2018 and has around 300 members, once dominated the area. The tribe encountered English explorer at the Fones Cliff site in 1608. Rappahannock Chief Anne Richardson says the site will be used to teach traditional skills like canoeing to the tribe's youth. "We were 11,000 years on the river,” she tells the Post. "When John Smith came here, he could walk on sturgeon in the water. So that will just tell you the abundance of natural resources that were here due to our conservation methods." (More Native Americans stories.)

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