Photo Credit: Jeffrey Allenby / Chesapeake Conservancy. Video: Chesapeake Conservancy

Society USA13. April 2022

Native Dwellers Take Back Their Ancestral Homeland

The Rappahannock tribe took back its ancestral homeland, located in today’s Virginia, United States, some 350 years after it had been taken by English settlers, thus allowing this Native community to reconnect with its roots. 

“Your ancestors cherished these lands for many generations,” says Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, the first Native American person to hold the position, “and despite centuries of land disputes and shifting policies, your connections to these cliffs and to this river remain unbroken.”

The nonprofit environmental group Chesapeake Conservancy bought the land for $4 million — with the help of the William Dodge Angle family, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and Walmart’s Acres for America Program — then donated the easement to the United States Fish and Wildlife Service which then restituted the land to the tribe. Fones Cliff — a rocky outcropping where Natives lived hundred years ago — covers 188 hectares, spans 6.4 km and towers 30 m above the river, and is located within the Rappahannock River Valley National Wildlife Refuge. The area is home to many birds, including the migratory bald eagle. Now that the tribe members have regained their homeland, they wish to build trails and create a replica of a village from the 16th century for educational purposes.

Smithsonian Magazine

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