Northam announces historic land acquisition for Chickahominy Tribe
The Chickahominy Tribe has re-acquired Mamanahunt, a historic site of more than 800 acres in Charles City County that holds deep cultural significance for the tribe.
The tribe has purchased Mamanahunt, a peninsula in the heart of the ancestral lands along the river that bears the tribe’s name, with a one-time, $3.5 million appropriation from Governor Northam’s current budget. The transaction was finalized on December 30, 2021.
“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. Ralph Northam said. “This land acquisition exemplifies our Administration’s commitment to the protection of Virginia’s highest value lands, including those of cultural and historical significance. Returning this historically significant parcel of land to the Chickahominy is one way to recognize tribal sovereignty, honor their rich history and ensure that the Tribal Nation has a place where they can continue their sacred traditions and share their stories.”
Chickahominy tribal leaders said they will preserve the natural resources of the waterfront land while pursuing historic and educational outreach opportunities that will generate economic development for the Tribal Nation as well as the local business community.
“This is a repatriation of the historically significant land and rich culture of our people, and pays respect to a history that for too long has been held hostage,” said Chickahominy Chief Stephen R. Adkins. “This gives us a presence back on the river that we came from. We’re coming back.”
“Investing in the preservation of historic and ancestral sites of Tribal Nations is one step toward building a more equitable Commonwealth,” said Secretary of the Commonwealth Kelly Thomasson, the Governor’s liaison with Virginia’s Indian tribes. “I’m proud of the strong relationships we’ve fostered between Virginia and the Tribal Nations located here, and the actions by Governor Northam to addresses injustices of the past.”
The property, which has been used for timber and farming, includes woodlands and cypress swamps and habitat for waterfowl and deer.
“The Chickahominy, along with Virginia’s other indigenous peoples, were the original stewards of the Chesapeake Bay watershed,” said Secretary of Natural and Historic Resources Ann Jennings. “Helping to reconnect the tribe with these lands and waters provides additional benefits such as supporting resilient ecosystems and improving water quality in the bay.”
A 1607 map attributed to Captain John Smith labels the town of Mamanahunt in the area. Historians believe the Treaty of 1614 between the Chickahominy and the colonists may have been signed on the peninsula, later known as Peace Hill and Willcox Neck.
In 2019, the Chickahominy Tribe used a state grant to acquire a 105-acre site known as Chickahominy on the Powhatan, along the James River, marking the first time the tribe has owned property on the James or Chickahominy rivers since tribal land was taken from their ancestors in the 1600s. The tribe was federally recognized by Congress in 2018.
Chickahominy leaders said they plan to hold interpretive and cultural events open to the public and offer outdoor recreation opportunities on the sites. “It opens a new era for the tribe to share our history,” Adkins said. “We would like to have a visitor’s center where we can describe the significance of the property and the reality of the Chickahominy people today. Sometimes we are confined to a 17th century stereotype, and that’s not who we are.”
Last month, Northam proposed a budget that includes $12 million for other federally-recognized Tribal Nations in Virginia to pursue similar opportunity to acquire and preserve ancestral lands of significance and proposes a $10 million-investment in a new Black, Indigenous and People of Color Preservation Fund to protect important cultural and historic properties.