Chickahominy Tribe celebrates acquisition of ancestral land in Charles City

Chickahominy Tribe celebrates acquisition of ancestral land in Charles City
Chickahominy Chief Steve Adkins and Governor Ralph Northam on the banks of the James. Photo courtesy Office of the Governor of Virginia.

Four centuries after English colonists began systematically displacing Virginia’s indigenous people, the Chickahominy Tribe is reconnecting with the land of their ancestors thanks to the acquisition of 105 acres along the James River.

Chickahominy Chief Steve Adkins and other tribal leaders joined Governor Ralph Northam and officials from numerous state, local, and private organizations Friday to celebrate the acquisition of the site, called Chickahominy on the Powhatan—the name of the James River prior to English settlement.

VOF Executive Director Brett Glymph delivering remarks. Photo courtesy Office of the Governor of Virginia.

“In 1646, tribal land was taken from the ancestors of the Chickahominy Tribe, in present day Charles City County, not far from this site,” said Chief Adkins. “Now, more than 370 years later, the Commonwealth is returning land to the tribe. Within tribal culture, waterways are especially significant as they provide sustenance, recreation and travel/trade routes. This location allows us to celebrate, preserve, and share our culture and traditions with current and future generations.”

The site was purchased with the assistance of a $3.18 million grant from the Virginia Land Conservation Foundation (VLCF). The Virginia Outdoors Foundation (VOF), which holds an easement on the property, assisted the tribe with the grant application. The land, upriver from Jamestown Island, will be protected from development and will create a location to showcase the culture, history, and traditions of the Chickahominy Tribe.

Chickahominy representatives blessed the land at the start of the ceremony. Photo courtesy Office of the Governor of Virginia.

“Our Commonwealth is full of cultural and historical sites and we must make every effort to protect and preserve their heritage, especially those that belong to or celebrate underrepresented communities,” said Governor Northam. “Returning land to the Chickahominy is an important step towards honoring their tribal history in Virginia and ensuring they have a place to continue sacred traditions.”

“We are proud and humbled to help the Chickahominy Tribe reconnect with the land and waters of their ancestors,” said VOF Executive Director Brett Glymph. “This project is right on every level—for the Chickahominy, for our Commonwealth, and for our nation.”

In addition to its cultural importance, the property will provide additional benefits like protecting scenic resources, Chesapeake Bay water quality, and wildlife diversity. It lies adjacent to Lawrence Lewis Jr., Park, which is known for bald eagles and herons.

Preliminary plans for the property, which has burial mounds and terraced settlement features, include a tribal office, a cultural education center, restrooms, interpretive period structures, information kiosks, and farm buildings and structures. The tribe, which was federally recognized by Congress in 2018, also plans to hold interpretive and cultural events open to the public once the site is further developed.

“Virginia’s natural resource agencies have been spending a lot of time talking about environmental justice, and this project is an excellent example of how we are putting those principles to work,” said Director of the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation Clyde E. Cristman.

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  1. This is wonderful. Returning land to the tribe and helping to keep their culture and the history of Virginia alive. I look forward to visiting them.

    1. This is outstanding. Many native Americans were massacred and those remaining reduced to mass discrimination.To help the Nansemond Tribe, I donated 35 acres to them located on the banks of the Chuckatuck Creek , which included a lake. When Chief Barry Bass first visited this site with me, he told me he felt the presence of his ancestors. The site together with the land the city of Suffolk finally deeded to the tribe was the location of the tribe’s ancestral home. The land I gave to the tribe was also covered by a conservation easement to VOF.

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