Hundreds of acres of land that once belonged to the Rappahannock Tribe in Virginia has been given back, the Department of the Interior announced.
More than 460 acres of the tribe’s ancestral homeland along the Rappahannock River including Fones Cliffs has been returned after English settlers took the land away more than 350 years ago.
“I’m elated about it,” Rappahannock Chief Anne Richardson told The Washington Post on Friday. “It is special to us because the bones of our ancestors are there.”
The land, which had previously been slated for commercial development, will now be able to keep its natural splendor. It’s also home to one of the largest populations of bald eagles on the Atlantic coast.
Interior Secretary Deb Haaland joined tribe members Friday to announce the land acquisition.
“We look forward to drawing upon Tribal expertise and Indigenous knowledge in helping manage the area’s wildlife and habitat,” Haaland said in a statement. “This historic reacquisition underscores how Tribes, private landowners, and other stakeholders all play a central role in this Administration’s work to ensure our conservation efforts are locally led and support communities’ health and well-being.”
The tribe said it plans to create trails in the area, along with a 16th-century village to educate visitors about the history of the Rappahannock Tribe.