Virginia Utility Proposes Pump Station on Sacred Monacan Indian Nation Site

Point of Fork, also known as Rassawek, is a sacred heritage site for the Monacan Indian Nation. (© Carrie Pruitt)

A Virginia utility is proposing to build a raw water intake and pump station on a sacred Monacan Indian Nation heritage site. In a letter to the James River Water Authority and local leaders, SELC and Preservation Virginia urged the utility to select an alternative location.

The site, called Point of Fork, is at the confluence of the James and Rivanna rivers. But it is also known as Rassawek, the Monacan tribe’s historic capital to which all other villages once paid tribute.

“This sensitive area should be protected, not destroyed,” says Senior Attorney Trip Pollard. “It has been clear for some time that the proposed project is likely to have serious impacts on significant historic, cultural, and archaeological resources that highlight the region’s complex and diverse past. Alternatives are available to meet local water needs.”

In addition to its longstanding ties to the Monacan Indian Nation, the site was also home to military installations during the Revolutionary War, including training grounds, barracks, and a supply depot. Point of Fork was a significant Civil War site as well.

Click here to read more about the site’s historic and cultural significance.

Wearing a “Save Rassawek” T-shirt, Monacan Chief Kenneth Branham appeared before the James River Water Authority at a March 11 meeting.

“We will not take any amount of money to let you go through there and destroy our ancestral homeland,” Branham said, according to a report from the Daily Progress. “There are ancestral remains in that area. I did a major reburial once before and I do not want to do that again. You can move that site.”

Against SELC’s advice—and that of Chief Branham and almost 50 others who spoke in opposition to the project at the meeting—the James River Water Authority chose to keep Point of Fork/Rassawek as its preferred location for the project.

SELC has submitted a letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, urging them to take a hard look when they review the permit application for the proposed project, and stating the reasons a permit should not be granted.

We will continue to follow the situation closely and to oppose this destructive proposal.

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