Over the course of the last decade, the Mattaponi Tribe of Virginia have been slowly acquiring land that had once been apart of their reservation. On Monday, Gov. Ralph Northam signed a land trust agreement with the tribe that effectively doubled the land base of the reservation.
Originally designated for the Mattaponi people in 1658, the reservation is home to less than 100 tribal members today. At the signing ceremony, Gov. Northam said the expansion of the Mattaponi reservation will help sustain and preserve the tribe’s history and traditions.
“I look forward to continuing to strengthen our relationship with the Mattaponi as we grow the friendship that connects the Tribe and the Commonwealth of Virginia,” Northam said in a press release.
The occasion was commemorated at the tribe’s annual Homecoming and Revival. Chief of the Mattaponi, Mark Custalow, described the day as one that will long be remembered.
“The Mattaponi people and myself worked hard in getting this land put into trust for future generations to enjoy,” Custalow said. “We appreciate the governor’s support in making this truly a monumental day in the history of our people.”
In Virginia, the Office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth is the liaison to the tribes of the state. Kelly Thomasson currently serves in the role and she said that finalizing this agreement with the Mattaponi was a positive step in the relationship between the tribe and the state.
“By putting this additional acreage back into trust, the Commonwealth is taking a step towards rectifying the past when we allowed their reservation land to be encroached upon,” Thomasson said.
The reacquired land may be used for new housing construction as well as for fishing, hunting and trapping. The Mattaponi Indian Reservation is located in King William County, Virginia.
COVER PHOTO - Mattaponi Chief Mark Custalow, left, and Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam
Kolby KickingWoman is a reporter/producer for Indian Country Today. He is Blackfeet/Gros Ventre from the great state of Montana and currently reports and lives in Washington, D.C. Follow him on Twitter - @KDKW_406. Email - email@example.com