Monacan Indian Nation site named one of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places

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Threatened by a local water intake and pump station, the historic capital of the Monacan Indian Nation is receiving national attention.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, based in Washington D.C., included Rassawek in its annual America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places list.

The James River Water Authority, a joint venture of Louisa and Fluvanna counties, proposes to build a pump station at Rassawek to deliver water to support development at Zion Crossroads, a nearby area slated for economic development. Researchers verified Rassawek’s location in the 1880s, the 1930s and the 1980s.

It is the Monacan equivalent of Werowocomoco, the Powhatan capital now planned to be a national park.

Preservation Virginia included Rassawek in their Virginia’s Most Endangered Historic Places program earlier this year. To raise national awareness, the statewide historic preservation organization successfully nominated the Monacan capital site to the National Trust’s list.

“Our capital city was a contemporary of Jamestown, but much larger and more complex, and it lasted as a community far longer,” said Tribal Chief Kenneth Branham. “It is for us a sacred place of great cultural significance, and it is for all Americans a place of historical importance.”

“Our goal in this nomination is to ensure that the James River Water Authority carefully considers and chooses one of the several available alternatives for siting this project,” Preservation Virginia CEO Elizabeth S. Kostelny said.

“The history of more than 5,000 years of Monacan people is written in the soil and landscape of Rassawek, providing a tangible connection to ancestors, many of whom did not survive the arrival of the English and are buried there,” said Katherine Malone-France, Chief Preservation Officer of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

In June, more than 12,000 organizations and individuals expressed opposition to the project to the Army Corps of Engineers, the agency considering the project permit.

“The 11 Most Endangered listing is final proof that the eyes of the nation are on the fate of Rassawek,” said Greg Werkheiser of Cultural Heritage Partners, legal counsel to the Monacan Indian Nation.


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