Tree Planting Revitalizes Nansemond Indian Nation Ancestral Land

Volunteers and Chesapeake Bay Foundation Join Tribe in Project

The Nansemond Indian Nation’s efforts to heal and deepen their physical connection to their ancestral riverfront land took a significant step with the first tree planting in Mattanock Town on March 1.   

“It’s incredible to feel the comradery and kindship for this project that is so valuable for the ecosystem,” Nansemond Indian Nation Chief Keith Anderson said. “It is a great honor to be a steward of this land.” 

The Tribe, volunteers, and representatives from the Department of Forestry and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation planted dozens of native trees along the Nansemond River Friday. This kicked off a multi-day project where a total of 450 native trees are expected to be planted.  

Native black gum, hackberry, and witch hazel trees were among the native plants that replaced debris and an invasive species known as privet that previously dominated the property. Buried beneath the soil, volunteers found oyster shells and scallop shells as big as their palms. 

“I feel that I am on sacred ground. I feel a spiritual connection as I’m here helping restore this land,” said Mary Hill, a tree planting volunteer Friday and a member of the Chesapeake Oyster Alliance. Hill said she is the descendent of seven generations of African-American watermen and had ancestors with connections to the Nansemond Indian Nation.  

Considered the cultural heart of the Tribe, the Nansemond River never left the spirits of the Nansemond Indian Nation even after centuries of displacement that date back to the arrival of colonists in the 1600s. According to the Tribe, their name meaning "Fishing Point" comes from the Coastal Algonquian language spoken by their ancestors, who lived in settlements along the Nansemond River for thousands of years. 

Following federal and state tribal recognition, the Tribe committed to reconnecting its people to the local waterways through a variety of projects including oyster gardening, community events, and tree plantings.   

On Friday, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation provided volunteers and expertise while the Department of Forestry showed volunteers how to plant the trees. 

“You couldn’t walk in this area just a short time ago because it was filled with invasive species,” Chesapeake Bay Foundation Virginia Executive Director Chris Moore said. “It is very exciting to see so many partners come together for this comprehensive restoration effort that stretches from underwater up to the land.” 

For more information on the Nansemond Indian Nation and their vision for cultural revitalization through river stewardship, check out the Tribe’s story map, Indigenous Life On The Nansemond River.  


Vanessa Remmers

Virginia Communications & Media Relations Manager, CBF

[email protected]

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