The Monacan Indian Nation’s Public Statement of Gratitude Upon Successful Resolution of the Fight to Save Rassawek
By Kenneth Branham, Tribal Chief, and the Tribal Council
The Monacan Indian Nation (“the Nation”) today celebrates the selection of an alternative route for the construction of the James River Water Authority water withdrawal and pipeline, thereby averting destruction of the Monacan historic capital of Rassawek, home to Monacan people through 200 generations. This rare victory for the preservation of tribal sacred places comes after more than four years of determined public advocacy by the Nation and our many allies across Indian Country and the United States. Our ancestors may now rest in peace, and the Nation will carefully consider a respectful future for the site together with neighboring landowners.
This outcome is a triumph for Native people, but also for all Virginians and Americans who seek to understand our shared human history and culture.
We give thanks to the Creator for his blessings. We also express our profound gratitude to the following people and institutions whose efforts made this glorious day possible:
- For safeguarding the Nation’s cultural heritage throughout our long history, our ancestors, and our living elders.
- For their passion and patience in this cause, our Tribal government staff, and our citizens, including the late Dr. Karenne Wood, whose legacy on earth includes her early and steadfast advocacy for Rassawek, and Rufus Elliot, a citizen leader in this fight.
- For their tireless, skillful, and generous pro bono efforts over the last four years to secure and defend our rights and our heritage, the Nation’s general counsel, the law firm of Cultural Heritage Partners, PLLC, including Marion and Greg Werkheiser and colleagues Eden Burgess, Ellen Chapman, Will Cook, Sarah Curtis, Earl Evans, Christine Grubbs, Liz Horton, Jessica Krauss, Lesley Parrish, Olga Symeonoglou, and all others.
- For his work documenting our history and archaeology and his ongoing advocacy for the Nation, Dr. Jeffrey Hantman, Emeritus Professor at the University of Virginia.
- For their encouragement and leadership in championing awareness about Rassawek throughout Indian Country, the organizations representing most of the 574 federally recognized Tribal Nations, particularly the National Congress of American Indians, The United South and Eastern Tribes, and the Alliance for Colonial Era Tribes.
- For their steadfast support and sharing of resources, the Honorable Chiefs and Councils, and cultural resources staff members of the Tribal Nations in Virginia, including the Chickahominy Indian Tribe, Chickahominy Indian Tribe-Eastern Division, Nansemond Indian Nation, the Pamunkey Indian Tribe, Rappahannock Tribe, and Upper Mattaponi Indian Tribe; and the tribes to our south, including the Haliwa Saponi Indian Tribe, especially Earl Evans, Kaylee Evans, and Linzie Evans; and the Sappony Tribe, especially Dante Desiderio.
- For their advocacy for our ancestors’ final resting places before and after our Nation achieved federal recognition, the Delaware Nation, especially their NAGPRA program;
- For highlighting the historic importance of Rassawek and the risk posed by this project, Preservation Virginia, especially Elizabeth Kostelny, Justin Sarafin, and Lisa Bergstrom; the National Trust for Historic Preservation, especially their legal department and 11 Most Endangered program; Fluvanna Historical Society, especially Tricia Johnson; Scenic Virginia, especially Leighton Powell and Kathleen Kilpatrick; and the Historic Greenspring District advocates, especially Rae Ely.
- For assistance and advocacy in the federal permitting process, the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation and the Council of Virginia Archaeologists.
- For highlighting the environmental importance of Rassawek and support in the permitting process, the Southern Environmental Law Center, especially Trip Pollard and Carroll Courtenay, and the Sierra Club.
- For their persistent yeoman’s work in grassroots outreach, the Indian Affairs Committee of the Baltimore Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends, especially Susan Marcus and Abbey Compton, and several chapters of the Religious Society of Friends and the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia, especially Tom Cassidy.
- For their past and continued political support, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine and U.S. Senator Mark Warner, former Governor Ralph Northam and his Cabinet secretaries and staff, Congressman Donald McEachin, Mayor Levar Stoney and the City of Richmond, and their respective and respected staff members.
- For their neighborly love and indispensable role in finding a solution, the owners of portions of Rassawek and adjoining lands in Fluvanna County, especially Renee & George Bialkowski, Barbara & John Seay, and Julia & Richard Forsyth.
- For their willingness to facilitate pursuit of an alternative project route, the dozens of landowners along “Alternative 1C”, and citizen volunteer Andrew Pullen for his successful efforts to secure universal landowner consent.
- For their kindness of spirit and encouragement, the good people of Fluvanna, Louisa, and nearby counties, and especially to Angelo Lomascolo and Tammy Purcell for their fierce and unwavering attention to this issue.
- For his courage in speaking out for truth at risk to his career but not his soul, whistleblower Eric Mai.
- For their prompt attention and insistence on integrity in the state permitting process and in archaeological investigations in the Commonwealth, the Virginia Department of Historic Resources.
- For their thorough and ethical archaeological work on the alternative project route, GAI and Gray & Pape, Inc. consultants.
- For his careful examination of the archaeology both at Point of Fork and along the alternative project route, geoarchaeologist Daniel Hayes.
- For their support in speaking up at meetings, signing petitions, and submitting thoughtful and inspiring comments to federal agencies, the over 12,000 individual citizens and local, state, and national organizations representing millions more citizens who were a part of the Save Rassawek movement.
- For their willingness to listen more closely to the voice of the public interest in their federal permitting processes, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
- For their wisdom in embracing a positive resolution to this controversy, the board of the James River Water Authority and their legal counsel.
- And for the regular, in-depth, and accurate news coverage that helped shine a light on Rassawek, the outlets and journalists who covered this matter, including, in alphabetical order, Laura Begley Bloom (Forbes), Elissaveta Brandon (Smithsonian Magazine), Earl Bridges (The Good Road, PBS, and Philanthropy Journal), Toby Cox (Central Virginian), Ida Domingo (ABC-13 News), Jack Durkin (CBS-19 News), Hannah Eason (NBC-12 News), Zoe Edgecomb (C-Ville), Sandy Hausman (Radio IQ), Elizabeth Holmes (NBC-29 News), David Holtzman (Central Virginian), Carly Kempler (NBC-29 News), Andrew Lawler (National Geographic), Craig Martin (The Good Road, PBS, and Philanthropy Journal), Kara Mavros (Architectural Record), Heather Michon (Fluvanna Review), Mallory Noe-Payne (Radio IQ), CJ Paschall (NBC-29 News), Kojo Nnamdi (WAMU), Spencer Philps (C-Ville), Sarah McConnell (With Good Reason), Lisa Provence (C-Ville), Allison Quantz (With Good Reason), Gregory Schneider (Washington Post), Annie Schroeder (NBC-29 News), Carley Welch (RVA Magazine), Allison Wrabel (Daily Progress), Sarah Vogelsong (Virginia Mercury), and others whose pieces will be recorded here for posterity.
History and Monacan memory record your contributions.