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The Upper Mattaponi Indian Tribe has reacquired 855 acres of its ancestral lands along the Mattaponi River in Virginia. 

The land, which was sold to a private developer in the 1960s, was purchased by the tribe with grant funding from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Virginia Land Conservation Foundation.

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The tribe plans to use the land for conservation and cultural purposes. Those plans include efforts to restore wetlands, forest habitats, and native grasslands, and use their Indigenous knowledge to enhance the environment for culturally significant fish, wildlife, and plants. 

The tribe will also use the land to reconnect its citizens to their cultural heritage, according to a statement. 

"Today, we begin anew our ancestors’ thoughtful caretaking of these important lands and waters,” Chief Frank Adams of the Upper Mattaponi Indian Tribe said in a statement. Restoring our territory enables our citizens to reconnect to their cultural heritage. I can't overstate how important it is for our youth to have these ties to the land."

The reacquisition of the land is a significant “milestone” for the Upper Mattaponi Indian Tribe’s sovereignty and conservation, according to Leigh Mitchell, environmental and cultural protection director for the tribe.  

The return of the land to tribal stewardship comes as climate change and rising sea levels threaten Chesapeake Bay wetlands. It’s also part of the nationwide movement to return ancestral lands to their rightful owners. 

Last year, the Rappahannock Tribe reacquired 465 acres of their ancestral homeland at Fones Cliffs, a sacred stretch of bluffs on the eastern side of the Rappahannock River in eastern Virginia.