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Chickahominy Tribe Reacquires Ancestral Land


The Chickahominy tribe, based in Charles City, Virginia, reacquired a 105-acre lot of its ancestral lands. Located at what some consider the heart of the group’s original territory, the land, known as Mamanahunt, is now back under tribal control.

Rarely are Native American tribes able to secure portions of their original territory. So, the Chickahominy tribe anticipates the cultural effect will be greater than most expect. 

Based along the beautiful Chickahominy River, Mamanahunt was previously used for farming and timber harvesting. But, after Governor Ralph Northam allocated $3.5 million from his budget to purchase the land, the Chickahominy tribe described different intentions for the grounds.

The tribe is the second-largest in Virginia, with over 800 enrolled members. Still, the environmental, economic, and cultural effects of reacquiring the land will stretch far beyond the tribe itself. 

Reviving The Chickahominy Culture 

According to Gov. Northam, returning the Chickahominy land is an action that allows the state to incorporate the historical significance of the tribe. Since the late 1600s, the tribe hasn’t had control of their original territory due to settlers forcing Native Americans out.

Still, the area remained an integral part of the tribe’s history and culture. “As we strive to tell a fuller and more inclusive story of Virginia, it is important to preserve and protect physical places and spaces that represent the history of all Virginians,” Gov. Northam explains. 

The opportunity for cultural preservation reigns abundant for the Chickahominy tribe now that they have Mamanahunt back under their control.

Returning the land not only recognizes the tribe’s independence while honoring their history. On top of that, it gives the people a place to continue cherished traditions and share stories with non-Natives. 

The tribe’s leader, Chief Stephen Adkins, points out that the repatriation “pays respect to a history that for too long has been held hostage.” Nonetheless, the Chickahominy tribe is excited about all the available future opportunities. “It opens a new era for the tribe to share our history,” Chief Adkins asserts.  

Future Plans For The Chickahominy Territory 

The Chickahominy tribe plans to utilize eco-tourism and river tours to retell their history and describe their culture accurately. An opportunity, Chief Adkins explains, is essential to give people a better sense of their history because most schools don’t teach it.

Also, Chief Adkins believes that teaching Chickahominy culture would “be much more effective coming from Native people.” But sharing the tribe’s history and culture aren’t the only benefits the Chickahominy tribe hopes to enjoy as a result of reacquiring their land.

Chief Adkins notes there’s finally an opportunity to repatriate several Native remains back on Virginian soil. Although the tribe worked on the repatriation of remains for over 20 years, the Chickahominy members didn’t have access to a proper burial place; until now. 

The significance reacquiring the Chickahominy land holds for the tribe is limitless. Typically, Native American tribes who have lost their land never receive a chance to get it back. As a result, fragments of Indigenous history are lost forever.

Therefore, the Chickahominy tribe getting their land back can help preserve culture, accurately share their history, and boost morale.

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