Like many family gatherings this time of year, there were lots of hugs and smiles along with the opportunity to reconnect with those who have been missed. And at this gathering, there were many extended family attending as well. Rappahannock Chief, Anne Richardson, welcomed tribal members along with honored guests, partners, and friends, to celebrate National Native American Month at the Rappahannock Cultural Center in Indian Neck.
Secretary of the Commonwealth, Kelly Thomasson welcomed those attending and commented that among her many roles, her favorite was that of “serving as liaison to Virginia’s tribes.”
This was also an opportunity for tribal members to hear about the progress being made on a number of projects such as Fones Cliffs, Werowocomoco, and the Rappahannock River Valley Survey.
Joe McCauley of the Chesapeake Conservancy shared the news that 250 acres on Fones Cliffs were in the process of being purchased by The Conservation Fund. As an intermediary, The Conservation Fund will, in turn, sell the property to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which also owns the neighboring Rappahannock River Valley Wildlife Refuge, ensuring that at least part of the area will remain undeveloped.
The Rappahannock are especially interested in preserving the land since they view the Rappahannock River the “center of their ancestral homeland,” which spans west to the Mattaponi River and north to Fredericksburg. They have lived and hunted on the banks of the river they named for 11,000 years.
Last year, the Rappahannock were given an acre parcel of the cliffs by former Senator John Warner’s daughter, Virginia. “Young people have been removed the river for two generations,” Chief Richardson said. This gift will give the tribe an opportunity to “return to the river,” a hope of she and other tribal leaders have that young people can now reconnect with the land and traditions.
Kym Hall of the National Park Service and superintendent of the Werowocomoco site, spoke of the significance of the site and a desire to work with the tribe, even while acknowledging past failures to include the voice of Native Americans in telling their story.
For the full article pick up a copy of this weeks Northern Neck News 11/21/18