The Rappahannock River

I have lived in the Fredericksburg area my whole life but I have never been environmentally aware of the impact of the Rappahannock River and the many groups of people connected to it. I was also unaware of the large presence and influence of the Rappahannock tribe who are led by Chief Anne. Chief Anne is the carrier of her tribe’s memory, history, the immense research she has conducted herself combined with her own childhood on the Rappahannock. I was amazed at her ability to recall stories, histories, cultural traditions from the 1600’s and later, at the drop of a hat, and then weave them into the conservation of the Rappahannock currently. Her interview really emphasized, both literally and metaphorically, that all elements of the ways in which we live connect back to the River and have since the beginning. And that that connection will be present whether one is or isn’t aware.

With the obvious connection Chief Anne and the Rappahannock tribe have to the river I was very surprised to not hear the tribe come up once in John Tippett’s oral history. Especially since the work he led was centered on the community in the surrounding area of the Rappahannock. And that the process of removing Embrey Dam, with the help of Senator Warner, required that there be complete community consensus.

Un-Damming the Rappahannock

I knew very little about the Rappahannock people/their history in the area prior to watching these oral histories. I was really interested by Chief Anne Richardson’s explanation of matriarchal tribal lineage. I also was struck by her discussion of how the term Rappahannock was given to the tribe for various reasons that cannot particularly be traced back to one event/confirmed, and also that this term name was *given* to the tribe and was not necessarily chosen by the tribe. This seemed indicative of colonization’s impact on othering Native Americans, however, I also thought it was interesting how she referenced that the meaning of the name suited the history of the tribe.

Tippett’s anecdotes were very interesting and I was fascinated by the idea that he developed a passion for conservation by visiting the river and learning to appreciate nature at a young age. I also learned a lot more about what FOR does- I see so much about it being a UMW student, but I honestly didn’t realize how much work they did for conservation and how influential they have been.

Chief Anne and John Tippett

Friends of the Rappahannock is an organization interested in safeguarding and educating about the Rappahannock River. Chief Anne is the current chief of the Rappahannock Tribe. This is the second time I have listened to this recording of Chief Anne. I also got to meet Chief Anne earlier this semester when I visited the Rappahannock Tribal Center to listen to Chief Anne speak about her tribal history. One of her main goals is reintroducing the river to the next generation of the tribe. Tribal traditions on the river have been swept away in the course of growing up American for this generation. Her goal is that this generation appreciate and learn the river as much as previous generations.

The John Tippet oral history is an account of his success at removing Embrey Dam from the Rappahannock. He served as executive director of the FOP which is a group interested in the conservation of the Rappahannock river. We follow Tippet from college to the start of the FOP, through the difficulties of getting funding for the removal of Embrey Dam. He concludes with his goal of the continued conservation of the river.

blog post

​Friends of the Rappahannock​ project is all about keeping the significant and almost already forgotten histories of the people living next to the Rappahannock River remembered, and not forgotten. They do this through interviews of people and transcribing their oral histories. These interviews provide a primary source on experiences, and perspectives on major historical events. Friends of the Rappahannock is a non-profit organization located here in Fredericksburg which works with our University of Mary Washington.

Chief Anne Richardson is a fourth generation chief of the Rappahannock Tribe, which they like to call themselves the “people who live where the water rises and falls”. The Rappahannock Tribe for more than three centuries have been located in the Indian Neck area of King and Queene County. During Anne’s interview, she talked about the tripe’s spiritual relationship with the river, and their physical connection to places like Fones Cliffs. Along with their feelings concerning recent conservation efforts, like the removal of the Embrey Dam, in Fredericksburg. 

John Tippett worked as a executive director for the Friends of the Rappahannock for fifteen years from 1999 to 2014. He over saw the organizations work towards the accomplishments of adopting, and protecting several landmarks. Now Mr. Tippett is a instructor for the Earth and Environmental Sciences program for our University of Mary Washington.

Un-Damming the Rappahannock

Blog Post #7

Chief Richardson
Chief Ann Richardson is the current Chief of the Rappahannock Indian Tribe. She is from Indian Neck and is a fourth generation Chief. The interview with Chief Richardson covers the precontact area and tribal culture and history. The name Rappahannock means where the people who live near where the water rises and falls, according to Chief Richardson.
Rappahannock is the Queen’s River, the Powhatan, the James is the King’s, and Pamunkey is Prince’s river. The Rappahannock inhabited various places on both the north and south sides of the Rappahannock River. The Rappahannock had both allies and enemies indicating that the Susquehanna were enemies.
Rappahannock Indians believe in blessings from the creator. They understand that the river is blessed and is a bounty provided by the creator. They feel that their job is to be a steward of the land. They believe that the eagle is a sacred bird, a messenger sent from the creator. Chief Richardson explains that are special they are not seen every day. She tells a story of three eagles that are reconnecting her to the river. That the eagles caused pray and reflection.
The Rappahannock River is the 5th most endangered river in the US because of fracking. Fracking is equated by Chief Richardson to a proverb, told to her by her father, “human beings are the only animals are that poop where they eat.”
Many Indian children are accultured into mainstream American culture. Chief Richardson want to instill passion in the children for their land, tribe, and traditions. She does want to lecture to them but create genuine interest in the traditional values.
Chief Richardson feels blessed that she has returned earth. She feels that it is the creator’s plan for them, the Rappahannock, to return and return their children to their heritage.
John Tippett
John Tippett, a professor at UMW and former executive director of Friends of the Rappahannock, grew up on the Potomac, in Maryland. Tippett developed a love for the water as a child. Tippet attended Allegheny College in Pennsylvania, in order to obtain a degree in Environmental Science. His degree led to a Master of Environmental Management program at Duke University. Tippet describes this as being transformative for him. It led him to be able to make a career out of his passion.
Tippet credits Bill Micks for founding the Friends of the Rappahannock in 1985. In the beginning, the organization was developed as a way to clean up and protect the Rappahannock River. The organization was completely volunteer-driven until grants were received from the Virginia Environment Endowment in 1988 which allowed for the first paid staff. It challenged them to raise money to build membership.
Efforts to control the river have been in existence since the 18j00s. The Dam was built in 1855. The first dam built in 1855 and replaced with the Embrey Dam in 1910. The Dam was considered to be a safety hazard, at least one child had been killed after falling from the dam. But the opponents believed that the gold mining which had been done would endanger the downstream watershed. Testing revealed that that the sediment built up behind the dam did not have mercury in it, therefore it would not be a hazard to the ecosystem to remove it.
The removal of the Embry Dam became a personal project of Senator Warner who is an avid sportsman and fisherman. The removal of the dam in 2004 cost between eight and ten million dollars. Removing the Dam created the longest free-flowing river in the eastern US. For the first time in over 150 years, migratory fish including American shad and striped bass gained access to spawning grounds in the upper Rappahannock and its tributaries. Although it longer than expected, non-migratory species like largemouth bass and channel catfish have moved upstream as well, enriching the river’s biomass and enthralling local anglers.
Tibbett would like to the ecosystem develop further with the return of oysters which will create a loop in improving the river’s health.

Un-Damming the Rappahannock: Blog Post #7

Chief Anne Richardson is the fourth consecutive generation to lead the Rappahannock tribe. She explained that the meaning of the tribes’ name is “the people who live where the water rises and falls.” She then gave a brief history of the tribe pre- and post-colonial contact and the events during the colonial era. She described how the Rappahannock tribe was affiliated with the Powhatan Confederacy during this time. A majority of the interview is focused on the tribe’s relationship with the river and how that relationship has evolved over time. She explains that when the tribe was pushed out of the area, it caused two generations to have little to no experience with the river and that now there is a focus from tribe elders to reestablish this connection. She also voiced an opinion on recent fracking efforts in the area, and in other places around the US. She explained that people should not profit off of something that could potentially be harmful to everyone. I really thought that Chief Anne was interesting and I think that having oral histories like hers are so important because not many people know them and that that history will slowly disappear if we don’t conserve it.

John Tippett was the executive director of the Friends of the Rappahannock from 1995-2014 and oversaw the group’s role in several landmark accomplishments, now he is an adjunct professor/instructor at UMW. When he first got to FOR, they had recently started with the development of removing Embrey Dam. During the video, he explains all of the hurdles that they had to jump through to get the funding for the removal and the number of tests they had to do on the soil. I thought that this was interesting because I didn’t know that gold mining went on in our area. With the removal of the dam, it was considered dangerous and it was often put on the back burner. They started by lobbying at the state level since the local government lacked the funds to have it removed. FOR slowly gained positive moral support from locals. They have hosted various events as well to show locals what they are capable of doing and that the dam was no longer necessary. The dam was successful removed between 2004 and 2005.

Northern Virginia Immigration

Blog post #6

Northern Virginia is a hub for migration.  Several communities including ones from India, Honduras, and Ethiopia call this region home.  Honduran migration began in the 1980s.  Relief from poverty and violence pulls Hondurans to the US to build a better life.  The Washington DC area is home to about 50% of Honduran immigrants followed by Los Angles, New York, and Houston.  In Northern Virginia, the area between Alexandria and Arlington, known as Arlandria or Chirilagua, is home to many Honduran immigrants.  Although immigrants are faced with working low paying jobs due to language, education, and legal barriers, Hondurans flock to the US to create a better life for themselves and their family members remaining in Honduras.  Many send money home to support wives, children or parents left behind.  Men typically make more money than women, but women send more money back to Honduras.  Men typically send about $467 dollars per month while women only send about $213.  While this is a big difference the women’s $213 is 19% of her income compared to only 14% of the men. Women are typically supporting children left behind while men are supporting both wives, children, and parents, it makes you wonder why they are not sending more money home.   Some Hondurans participate in the Latin American Dream, meaning they come to the US for two to five years to work, save to build their own homes, and then return to their families.  Others, typically women’s is linked to gender inequalities in the labor market. 

In the beginning men migrated out of Honduras more than women but in recent years the rates are now comparable.  Because many women leave children and the advances in technology women are able to create and maintain transnational families.  They are able to participate in family decisions and both give and receive emotional support.  This dynamic creates an intricate power dynamic, however.  The money sent home ultimately is in the control of the receiver and not the contributor.  Migration does help empower women financially, physically, and enables them to require better treatment by males especially within relationships.  In contrast to the personal independence women are increasingly made dependent in the US for sponsorship for residency, way of obtaining citizenship, and relationships to share the cost of living.    

The Ethiopian community migrated to the US’s larger cities such as Los Angles, New York, Dallas, as well as Washington D.C.  In Virginia they settled farther South in the Columbia Pike, Landmark, and Lincolnia neighborhoods.  Ethiopian’s typically enter the US legally with Washington D.C. became the principal destination. Immigrants who arrive as children then brought up in the US are considered 1.5 generation immigrants and those born in the US with at least one parent who relocated are considered 2nd generation. 

Ethiopian immigrants do not identify with African Americans.  Instead they identify as being Ethiopian or Ethiopian American.  Their assimilation in America is a multifaceted and complex process having economic, social and cultural ramifications.  They do not see race as the distinguishing characteristic as American’s do but rather ethnicity. On questionnaires they do not identify with Black but would prefer African.  Interestingly they find negative comments from “native Blacks” more upsetting then from Whites. Ethiopians have a great deal of ethnic pride, it is the only African country that was not colonized by Western powers.  The Ethiopian national flag is embraced by many of its young migrants.  The green, yellow, and red horizontal stripes are considered universally to represent Africa. 

May Ethiopian’s participate in festivals and customs brought with them but like many second generation immigrants only have a superficial knowledge of their meanings.  Ethiopian youth tend to invent traditions that are more in accordance with mainstream cultural practices such as renting night clubs for gatherings.  The Miss Ethiopia contest created in 2001 is open to women between 18 and 29 who have at least one parent with Ethiopian decent.  The contestants must be of “good moral character.”  Ethiopian’s assimilate into the broader community while juggling multiple identities.  They tend to downplay their national identity unless specifically asked while in public.    Immigrant identity is constructed by adaptation, acculturation, and assimilation.  Immigrants create their identities through self-determination, local environments such as religious institutions, as well as through secular organizations.

The Washington D.C. area also has a large population of Indian immigrants which represent the third highest source of legal immigration.  Unlike their Honduran counterparts, Indians generally are in a highly skilled professions in a high socioeconomic status with almost 33% having bachelor’s degrees and 47% have graduate or professional degrees.  They have a median income of $155,694.  Indian immigrants abhor the entrenched division of caste and religion preferring Americas’ equality, freedoms, and meritocracy. 

Even though Asians the 2nd largest immigrant community in the US they are still a visible minority, who experience some measure of “othering” by the mainstream population.  At times they have been characterized as leeches, only in the US for economic gain.  The events of September 11, 2001 magnified this type of behavior.  Sikh’s for example have been verbally abused and even assaulted.  More common are insensitive comments by natives such as complementing an Indian for superior English language skills or being traditional because of their choice of dress.  This type of behavior is characterized as being micoaggressive making Indian’s aware the they do not fully belong even in places where they believed they not only deserved acceptance and but had won it.

The first article examined the identity and assimilation of first generation Ethiopian immigrants living in the D.C area. The individuals from these interviews found race to be more fluid than ethnicity. One of the participants commented that when filling out surveys sometimes he checked “black” and other times he checked “other.” Most of the participants better identified with “African.” The participants from this study also attributed their strong ethnic pride to their parents who impressed a sense of cultural respect of their home country upon them. While being Ethiopian was an important part of the participants’ character the way it was displayed/represented varied from person to person.

The second article examined the identities of first generation immigrants from India in private and public spaces. Individuals with higher degrees and more professional jobs found that they had the privilege to be selective with what aspects of Indian or American culture they embraced. While being Indian was the core of who they were, they also identified with being American. Additionally, while these participants were under the impression that they were in a position to assimilate on their own terms, they were not exempt from hardships (i.e. racism, marginalization, etc.).

The third article examined immigrants from Honduras in Alexandria, Virginia and the gendered motives for migration, reproductive labor across borders, gender inequalities in the U.S. labor market, intricate intra-familial power negotiations, the empowerment of women and new forms of dependence. The article also discussed the impact and issues with remittances.


Chacko’s writing of Ethiopian immigration highlights the distinct differences between these immigrants and those of “native black Americans”. The cultural and racial identities of the 1.5 and the second generation of immigrants is vastly different than that of “African-Americans”. The ways they identify themselves mark them as separate but similar to these earlier Africans that were forced to migrate.

In the article about Asian Indians, Chacko speaks on Asian Indians ability to fit in to American culture. The willingness to embrace American culture and still hold onto their own culture in the home is discussed along with their surprise at discrimination aimed towards them. Middle class, professionals with a cosmopolitan understanding of the world did not expect to be complemented on how well they spoke English.

In the last article, the Honduran women were shown to immigrate for survival of their families at home. Money sent home helped families but not always in ways that the immigrant hoped or had control of. Their absence from children changed the family dynamic and left them in less control of their children’s lives even as they became more empowered.

Immigration in NOVA- Blog Post #6

What I found most interesting about Chacko’s article focusing on Ethiopian immigrants was how she detailed the way Ethiopian and other African immigrants placed emphasis on their cultural heritage in terms of nationality to distance themselves from the label of “black” as applied to black Americans. The statistic stating that Ethiopians overwhelmingly labeled themselves as African rather than black, even going so far as to ask for that to be made an option on forms, was very telling to me in terms of how race is seen in America. I also was somewhat unaware of the Ethiopian migration to the DC area, so I found this article very enlightening.

In Chacko’s article about hybrid sensibilities, I was really interested in the idea of the “third space”, or the idea that maybe Asian Indians aren’t totally “assimilated” but also aren’t unassimilated, and how this changes in different settings and contexts. The idea that level of skill is associated with acceptance and assimilation was concerning to me but also unsurprising, in terms of the very American ideal of hard work = equality (or something like it).

Petrozziello’s article focused on how gender is related to assimilation in the case of Honduran-American families. The fact that many women migrated to escape gender oppression highlights how they are able to be taken advantage of in their vulnerability. They are paid less than they could be. Women are expected to care for children while men are out pursuing the “Latin American dream” and providing for the family- but women also must hold jobs.