Over the past year, the Conservancy has engaged with the Rappahannock Tribe, the National Park Service (NPS), and St. Mary’s College of Maryland to investigate the Indigenous Cultural Landscape (ICL) along the Rappahannock River. ICLs are a feature of the John Smith Chesapeake Trail, and are defined as geographic areas “that would have supported the historic lifestyles and settlement patterns of an Indian group in their totality (NPS).”

With the cooperation of many landowners along the river, the ICL team investigated sites that the Rappahannock Tribe identified as being important to their history and legacy as a people.  St. Mary’s College has completed a report on the project which tells a fascinating story about the forced movements of the tribe following the earliest English settlements in the Rappahannock River Valley.  The investigations also uncovered a startling lack of archaeological research that, if accomplished, would shed more light on the culture of the Rappahannock people prior to, and after, the English exploration and settlement period.

Members of the Rappahannock Tribe at the river. Photo by Joseph McCauley

The Rappahannock have an initiative they call Return to the River, aimed at engaging tribal youth in traditional activities on the river, such as fishing, canoeing and camping. The report provides several recommendations to support Return to the River, including oral histories, developing educational materials for tribal members and the public, and continuing to learn more about the region’s archaeology through conversations with local agencies, organizations and interested landowners. The report also helps the National Park Service develop interpretive media and programs about the Chesapeake in the 17th century. Read the full report and learn more about indigenous cultural landscapes on other Chesapeake rivers.