Virginia Indian Tribute

A monument planned for Capitol Square

Native peoples have lived in this land we know as Virginia, for thousands of years. Despite hardships brought about by the loss of their land, language, and civil rights, many Virginia tribes persisted and their members have continued to contribute to the Commonwealth through agriculture, land stewardship, teaching, military and civic service, the arts, and other avenues.

Concept Illustration of the "Mantle" monument ©Alan Michelson
Concept Illustration of the “Mantle” monument ©Alan Michelson

In recognition of their lasting legacy and significance, as well as to ensure that the rich and inspiring stories of our native peoples will endure, the Virginia Indian Commemorative Commission was established by the General Assembly and the Governor with the purpose of erecting a permanent monument on Capitol Square. Following a competition that attracted artists from across the country, Alan Michelson’s design, Mantle, was chosen to represent the Virginia Indian Tribes, past and present.



Oriented to the earth and incorporating existing trees in the area, Mantle combines four integrated spiral elements to create the shape of a Nautilus, a shell which represents strength, knowledge of the past, continuous growth, and beauty. The inspiration for the shape originated with the embellishments on a ceremonial robe, or mantle, worn by Powhatan, the paramount chief. A five-foot wide winding footpath following the outline of the monument will serve as a labyrinth which in some Indian cultures represents a sacred path to the home of an ancestor. In addition to the path will be a continuous, smooth stone wall, which also serves as a bench.

slide3In the communal center of the monument in honor of the river culture of the tribes will be a circular waterfall with a shape inspired by the “peak” shells which were highly prized by Virginia Indians. The Indian names of Virginia rivers will be arranged in a spoke pattern radiating from the center. Natural landscaping throughout the monument will consist of a selection of perennial native plant species, including wildflowers.

Mantle will serve as a meditation space where visitors can either walk the labyrinth or sit and contemplate. It will also be a gathering spot where groups can formally or informally assemble. As a communal area, Mantle creates a respectful relationship with the surrounding natural world, reflecting the positive values, which set the Indians apart from other cultures. Finally, through state-of-the-art educational programs developed, Mantle will serve as a vehicle to educate the community by bringing awareness of the history and culture of the Virginia Indians.

To see more details about the Monument and please visit the Virginia Indian Commemorative Commission Website.

You can also Subscribe to receive meeting notifications concerning the Virginia Indian Tribute Monument from the General Assembly’s Interim Studies page.