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Community Roots: Selections from the Local Legacies Project
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Original log cabin school house, built ca. 1870
Original log cabin schoolhouse, built ca. 1870, used by Christian evangelists to minister to Monacan Indians; now a National Historic Landmark Photo: Tes Thraves

Monacan Indian Homecoming Festival

In 1969, St. Paul's Church, which has a number of Monacan Indian church members, began holding its annual homecoming festival and bazaar as a needed fundraiser. In 1980, the mission added a parish, now used as the Tribal Center, which is used during the festival for the goods and crafts sale and lunch buffet. The festival's focus is to sustain the community, monetarily support the church, and spiritually nurture the tribe as a whole. To document the importance of the homecoming to the Monacan community, a group of Monacan youths completed 45 oral histories during the 1999 30th Annual Saint Paul's Church Bazaar. The homecoming is particularly important for the children to learn about their heritage and maintain their culture. Former community members also return to the area and reconnect with the legacy and culture of the Monacan Nation.

For more than 10,000 years, the Monacan Native American people have lived in the Piedmont and mountain areas of Virginia and West Virginia. About 10,000 Monacans, which were actually a confederacy composed of several major tribes, lived in the area around 1607 when John Smith and the colonists founded Jamestown. Monacans were enemies of the Powhatans, and had little contact with early colonists.

In 1908 Arthur Gray began an Episcopal mission program for the few hundred Indians who lived on Bear Mountain location, near Amherst. The following year a chapel was built for the tribe. By the 1920s, about 500 Monacans were living in the mission community. Episcopal minister, John Haraughty, who came to the Bear Mountain community in 1968, took particular interest in the Monacan people and helped them secure additional land and build new homes. The Monacan Tribe incorporated as a nonprofit organization in 1988, and was officially recognized by the Commonwealth of Virginia in 1989, some 380 years after the tribe's first encounter with European colonists.

Documentation includes the legacy report, which describes the festival which includes drumming and dancing, a booklet on the history of Monacan Indians, and photographs.

Originally submitted by: Bob Goodlatte, Representative (6th District).

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The Local Legacies project provides a "snapshot" of American Culture as it was expressed in spring of 2000. Consequently, it is not being updated with new or revised information with the exception of "Related Website" links.

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