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Northam announces land acquisition for Chickahominy Tribe

Gov. Ralph Northam has announced an important land acquisition by the Chickahominy Tribe.

The 105-acre site, known as Chickahominy on the Powhatan, along the James River was purchased with the assistance of a grant from the Virginia Land Conservation Foundation (VLCF) to acquire the property. At the same time, the Virginia Outdoors Foundation (VOF) has signed an easement with the tribe to permanently protect the site. The land, upriver from historic Jamestown Island, will be protected from development and will create a location to showcase the culture, history, and traditions of the Chickahominy Tribe.

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“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 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.”

In addition to its cultural importance, the property was identified for its scenic values and its ability to reduce flooding and protect wetlands by the Commonwealth’s new data-driven approach to land conservation, ConserveVirginia. The ConserveVirginia tool was launched earlier this year to guide and inform land conservation projects across Virginia, including Virginia Land Conservation Foundation grants.

“Chickahominy on the Powhatan represents the ideal ConserveVirginia property,” said Secretary of Natural Resources Matthew J. Strickler. “In addition to protecting and celebrating the Chickahominy tribe’s history and culture, it will provide additional benefits like protecting scenic resources, Chesapeake Bay water quality, and wildlife diversity.”

Adjacent to Lawrence Lewis Jr., Park, which is known for bald eagles and herons, this property will support wildlife and activities, and provide a scenic spot alongside a spur to the Virginia Capital Trail. The area has 3,075 feet of shoreline on the James River and 940 feet on Buckland Creek, both tributaries of the Chesapeake Bay. It qualifies for scenic river status and lies on the James River Heritage Trail.

“This acquisition provides the Chickahominy with a place to share their story and celebrate tribal traditions,” said Secretary of the Commonwealth Kelly Thomasson, the Governor’s liaison with Virginia’s Indian tribes. “Ensuring tribes have a place to gather and share their culture and heritage is an important step in protecting and celebrating Virginia’s Indian Tribes.”

A grant from VLCF to acquire an open-space easement on the property will cover nearly the entire $3.18 million of the total project cost.

“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.”

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.

“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 Chickahominy Chief Stephen R. 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.”

“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.

This grant is among nine VLCF grants totaling $12.5 million that will fund projects protecting nearly 4,000 acres. The $12.5 million is from $89.5 million Dominion Energy funded to mitigate historic-resource impacts of the Surry-Skiffes Creek Transmission Line that runs over the James River from James City County to Surry County.

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