Apr 3, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Sacred land returned to Native American tribe in Virginia

Rappahannock River

Rappahannock River in Fredericksburg, Va. Photo: Susana Sanchez-Young/The Washington Post via Getty Images

More than 460 acres of land in Virginia has been returned to the Rappahannock Tribe, the Department of Interior announced.

Why it matters: The land, at Fones Cliffs, on the eastern side of the Rappahannock River in Virginia, is the ancestral home of the tribe and has long been considered a sacred site.

The big picture: The push to return the 465 acres is part of the Biden administration's "America the Beautiful" initiative.

  • The tribe's reacquisition of the land was formally celebrated at a community event on Friday attended by Interior Secretary Deb Haaland and Martha Williams, the principal deputy director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
  • The site marks the place where the Rappahannock Tribe first encountered English settlers in the early 1600s, and also hosts one of the largest nesting bald eagle populations on the Atlantic coast, per the press release.
  • The Rappahannock Tribe will own the land, which will be publicly accessible and "held with a permanent conservation easement," per the press release, which added that there are plans to create trails and a replica of a 16th century village, "where Tribal members can educate the public about their history and Indigenous approaches to conservation."

What they're saying: “The Department is honored to join the Rappahannock Tribe in co-stewardship of this portion of their ancestral homeland. We look forward to drawing upon Tribal expertise and Indigenous knowledge in helping manage the area’s wildlife and habitat,” Haaland said in the press release.

  • “We have worked for many years to restore this sacred place to the tribe. With eagles being prayer messengers, this area where they gather has always been a place of natural, cultural and spiritual importance,” Rappahannock Tribe Chief Anne Richardson at the event, per National Parks Traveller.
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