Upper Mattaponi Indian Tribe's Return to the River
The Takeaway: The Upper Mattaponi Tribe’s historic reclamation of its ancestral lands along the Mattaponi River in Virginia not only preserves the tribe’s heritage but also ignites a visionary environmental stewardship, fostering harmony between tradition, culture, and ecological restoration.
The Upper Mattaponi Tribe will preserve and protect 853 acres of culturally significant territory within the Chesapeake Bay watershed, honoring the tribe’s heritage and rekindling its role as environmental steward. The tribe, with assistance from local partners, completed the Mattaponi River acquisition, marking the tribe’s first return to the river that shares its name and ancestral culture. NOAA, through the Virginia Coastal Zone Management Program, awarded the tribe just over $3 million to support the reacquisition project, which is the second to be completed under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law’s National Coastal Zone Management Program Habitat Protection and Restoration awards.
This visionary initiative, known as the Return to the River program, is restoring vital habitats, including wetlands, forests, native grasslands, and streams on the site of a former sand and gravel mine. By seamlessly connecting this newly conserved expanse with over 3,000 acres of previously protected land along the Mattaponi River, the tribe is poised to enhance the well-being of culturally significant fish, wildlife, and plants through habitat restoration.
This monumental project is more than just a conservation effort; it represents a revitalization of tradition, culture, and ecological harmony. As the Upper Mattaponi Tribe nurtures the land, future generations will benefit from the resources, both natural and cultural, that this project safeguards. (2023)
Partners: NOAA, Virginia Coastal Zone Management Program, Virginia Department of Environmental Quality
Federal Funding: Bipartisan Infrastructure Law’s National Coastal Zone Management Program Habitat Protection and Restoration awards – $3,037,052PRINT