Va. Native American tribes acquiring more lands for cultural and environmental preservation
‘They are closer to the land than anybody’
Over the past three years, the Chickahominy Tribe in Charles City County received nearly $7 million in state funding to acquire and preserve tribal lands, staving off development and improving water quality in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
The current plan for the $3.5 million provided by the General Assembly this year is to purchase more lands that have cultural significance to the tribe, according to Dana Adkins, the Chickahominy Tribe’s environmental director.
An area of over 900 acres likely containing the historic remains of a Chickahominy village called Mamanahunt is currently being considered for acquisition. Other properties along the Chickahominy River in Charles City County where tribal villages were located are also of interest to the tribe.
“We’re trying to establish places for our youth to be educated on environmentally and culturally significant events that impact the tribe,” said Adkins. “We’re looking at ways that we can best utilize our property for the benefit of our tribal citizens and the community at large, mainly for educational purposes.”
The last major land acquisition for the Chickahominy came via a $3.1 million state grant to purchase 105 acres in Charles City County along the James River in 2019. The tribe placed an easement on the land with the Virginia Outdoors Foundation that limits development and includes riparian buffers in an effort to restore the health of the habitat and the neighboring river.
Streamside forests, known as riparian buffers, are standard protocol for the Virginia Outdoors Foundation, along with management practices that keep the land in its natural wooded state for the benefit of nearby waterways, according to Brett Glymph, executive director of the Virginia Outdoors Foundation. The Chickahominy Tribe, among other tribes throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed, have understood and practiced these techniques for centuries.
“The tribes know that stewardship, water quality and environmental protection are important things,” said Matthew J. Strickler, Virginia’s secretary of natural and historic resources. “It’s a key value of theirs, and they are closer to the land than anybody. It’s not just setting an example, it’s the actual work that they do.”
The Virginia Mercury is a new, nonpartisan, nonprofit news organization covering Virginia government and policy.
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