Four projects highlighting the region’s diversity have received more than $300,000 in funding from Monuments Across Appalachian Virginia – an initiative focused on sharing the untold stories of historically marginalized, oppressed, and excluded communities in the region.

The funding will be used for the construction of six to 10 new monuments in Appalachian Virginia.

Each community-designed project chosen for funding touches on important Appalachian issues and communities. They include the Indigenous Yesáh peoples and Monacan-Tutelo Saponi language; the contributions and cultures of Latine-Appalachian peoples; the visibility of African-American communities and histories in the region; and the natural beauty and irreplaceability of Appalachian forests and the underrepresented communities that have communed with and safeguarded them.

Each of these projects was chosen by the initiative’s advisory board because of its dedication to highlighting the significance of these communities to Appalachian history.

“As an advisory board member, I'm delighted that Monuments Across Appalachian Virginia and the Mellon Foundation are supporting these innovative projects,” said Paul Quigley, an associate professor of Civil War studies at Virginia Tech. “Each one reimagines what counts as a monument, who gets to create them, and what work monuments can do for the cultural health of our region. Telling overlooked stories in creative ways – from visual art to music to physical markers – these inspiring projects highlight the vitality of the many communities that make up Appalachian Virginia.”

First-round projects 

  • Yesá:sahį Language and Sacred Places is a collaboration between the Yesá:sahį Language Project, Indigenous East, 7 Directions of Service, and the Virginia Tech Department of Agricultural, Leadership, and Community Education. The project will create a series of public monuments in support of ongoing collaborative, and intertribal, Indigenous community-led efforts to revitalize the Monacan/Tutelo/Saponi language [Yesá:sahį] and the connections of contemporary Indigenous communities to ancestral homelands in Appalachian Virginia. Through online education and public storytelling, the project seeks to encourage visitors and learners to reframe their understanding of American history, recognizing the ongoing presence of Indigenous people in this area. Through Yesą́ stories, art, and traditional ecological knowledge, the project will highlight the deep relationship that Yesą́ peoples hold to their sacred places and traditional territories across Appalachia. It will be led by Desiree Shelley, board representative of the Yesa:sahį Language Project and a Virginia Tech graduate student; Alexa Sutton Lawrence, executive director of Landberry and the lead founder of Indigenous East; and Donna Westfall-Rudd,  an associate professor in the Department of Agricultural, Leadership, and Community Education.
  • Montañitas Reimagined is a collaboration with Estela Diaz Knott from the Lua Project, the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 621 in Luray, Virginia, and Amy Price Azano, director of the Virginia Tech Center for Rural Education. It reimagines Appalachia as a shared and co-created space with, by, and alongside Latine communities. This monument project commemorates and reimagines the region's “little mountains'' by celebrating Latine-Appalachian art, food, music, and culture at the Blue Ridge Montañita Festival. It will create interdisciplinary place-based community educational materials and produce a digital album so that a more nuanced and complex story of the region can be shared locally, regionally, and beyond.
  • The Travelers Inn: Black Appalachian History in Bluefield aims to renew the African American neighborhoods of Bluefield’s North Side and East End in collaboration with Greg Galford, an assistant professor in the Virginia Tech Department of Apparel, Housing, and Resource Management, and Vonnia Harris Davis, an artist and community advocate. The East End and North Side neighborhoods hold profound significance to Black Appalachian history, and this project seeks to make their contributions visible through public memory projects. The project invites community members to solidify their cultural legacy for future possibilities, including reimagining historical sites, such as Travelers Inn, listed in the “Negro Travelers Green Book” during the segregated Jim Crow Era. The team will have community conversations to inform a public art installation that reflects the unique character, culture, and spirit of Black residents' history.
  • Forest Botanicals Region Living Monument seeks to challenge existing narratives about what is valued in Central Appalachia through highlighting the cultural, historical, ecological, and economic significance of Southwest Virginia’s native medicinal herbs and foods. Shannon Bell, a professor in Virginia Tech’s Department of Sociology, and John Munsell, a professor and forest management Extension specialist in the College of Natural Resources and Environment, will work with Appalachian Sustainable Development, forest botanicals practitioners, and members of the community to design a woodland-trail storywalk at Flag Rock Recreation Area in Norton, Virginia. This trail will connect to an online exhibit featuring interviews with a diverse group of Appalachians who are involved in wild harvesting, forest farming, and wild-crafting woodland botanicals. This monument will celebrate the region’s forest treasures to inspire a more ecologically sustainable vision for the region’s future. 

Funding opportunities for community group projects are still available. Applications are due Jan. 10. Click here for more information.


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