Chief Anne Richardson — Fighting for Virginia’s Indians

As chief of the Rappahannock Tribe since 1998, Chief Anne Richardson (b. 1956) was the first woman to lead a Virginia Indian tribe since the early 1700s. She was instrumental in obtaining state (1983) and then federal (2018) recognition for the Rappahannock—recognition that confers sovereignty and other rights. While contending with the long legacy of displacement, discrimination, and disenfranchisement, Richardson works to ensure a vibrant future for the Rappahannock and to preserve their lands and cultural traditions. “Most people, when they think about the history of [Virginia’s Indians] . . . think about these things like the dinosaurs that existed and died,” she has observed. “My people still exist and will continue to exist.” 


This article was featured in the Virginia Magazine of History & Biography, Vol. 128, No. 2 in connection with the VMHC exhibition, Agents of Change: Female Activism in Virginia from Women’s Suffrage to Today

Photograph of one of Chief Anne Richardson’s outfits
Chief Anne Richardson both practices and passes on tribal customs. Shown here is one of her outfits for dancing. She has initiated programs to teach young people native language, dance, arts, foodways, and other traditions. (Courtesy of Chief Anne Richardson, Rappahannock Tribe)
Seal of the Rappahannock Tribe
Seal of the Rappahannock Tribe, which received federal recognition under Chief Richardson’s tenure. (Courtesy of Chief Anne Richardson, Rappahannock Tribe)
Photograph of Chief Anne Richardson
Photograph of Chief Anne Richardson at VMHC symposium (Photo by VMHC - Troy Wilkinson)