Lynchburg has quite the place in American history, but have you ever wondered what was here before Lynchburg was first settled in 1757? Americans Indians populated what is now known as Virginia and control of the Virginia Colony was ceded by the Iroquois in early 1718 and became official with the signing of the Treaty of Albany in 1721. While it was the Iroquois who eventually gave up the land, they had only had control for sixteen years after they had taken the land in conquest from the Siouans.
Officially, the area of land Lynchburg occupies is known as Monacan country. The Monancans are a Native American tribe recognized by the Commonwealth of Virginia. Currently there are still approximately 1,700 members of the tribe still residing in the area. The Monacans were first recorded in Virginia in 1607 but have been residents of Bear Mountain, just north of Lynchburg, for over 10,000 years! The Monacans are related to the Siouan, Tutelo, Occaneechi, and Manahoac tribes
Today the Monacan Indian Tribe of Virginia, Inc is registered as a 501 tax-exempt corporation with the mission of preserving the tribes’ heritage and customs. Each year for the past twenty years, the Monacan’s sponsor a Powwow which is taking place this weekend in Elon, Virginia. Patrons of the powwow can enjoy storytelling passed on for generations, native drums and dancers, along with native american art and crafts. Adults admission is $7, seniors and children 12 and under are $5, and all children 5 and under are free. The Monacan nation also hosts a Homecoming Bazaar the first Saturday in October each year.
To learn more about the Monacans, any day of the year, take a trip down to Natural Bridge. There is a Native American Village complex which has been constructed there and is available to visitors with the Natural Bridge admission. The Monacans are believed to be the first to discover National Bridge. On a visit to the village you will learn about a day in the life of a Monacan by learning about tool and basketmaking, cooking, construction, and more. Guided tours are also available from Spring through Fall and are included in the priced of admission as well. Tickets for Natural Bridge begin at $20.99 for adults (12 or older) and $11.99 for children (5 to 12 years old).
As one the few American Indian nations still living in their ancestral home, the Monacans have a rich history deeply entwined with that of modern day Lynchburg. We are fortunate to have access to the history and customs of the tribe within a short drive on the ‘burg.