Tribal Homeland Restored

Home to bald eagles, Fones Cliffs returns to the Rappahannock Tribe.

When Captain John Smith first encountered them in a 1608 skirmish, the Rappahannock Tribe lived in three villages on Fones Cliffs, which rise from the eastern side of the Rappahannock River on the Northern Neck. 

“We have worked for many years to restore this sacred place to the Tribe,” said Rappahannock Tribe Chief Anne Richardson, who expressed deep gratitude in an emotional ceremony in April celebrating the gift to the Tribe of its ancestral land. The 465-acre tract was owned by the Morris family, owner of Northern Neck Lumber, who generously contributed to the project through a bargain sale to the Chesapeake Conservancy. Home to bald eagles, Fones Cliffs has been designated a bird habitat of global significance by the National Audubon Society. 

“It’s a stunningly beautiful property,” says Joel Dunn, CEO of the Chesapeake Conservancy, which purchased the land and donated it (with a conservation easement) to the Tribe. “I call it the Yosemite of the Chesapeake.” 

Charlottesville benefactor Dr. Carol Remmer Angle also made the gift possible through a donation in honor of her late husband, Dr. William Dodge Angle. Additional funding was provided by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation through Walmart’s Acres for America Program.

Richardson says the land is for everyone. The Tribe plans to develop trails with kiosks detailing the history of the land and build a replica 16th-century village to educate visitors on the Tribe and its traditions. They will also place the land in trust with the Bureau of Indian Affairs. 


This article originally appeared in the August 2022 issue.

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