Monacans and Miners: Native American and Coal Mining Communities in Appalachia

Synopsis

Monacans and Miners sheds new light on the indigenous and immigrant communities of southern Appalachia by comparing the political, economic, and social experiences of the Monacans, a historically significant Native American group in Amherst County, Virginia, with those of Scottish and Irish settlers who made their home in Wyoming County, West Virginia, in the late eighteenth century.

The Monacans are the descendants of a powerful people who both fought and traded with the Powhatan Indians. As a tide of English settlers swept through Virginia and continued west, some Monacans took refuge in the Blue Ridge Mountains. For the next few centuries the Monacans, like some other Native American groups in the Southeast, were legally classified as black and not permitted to vote or hold office. Many were only forced into indentured servitude, laboring in apple orchards for large landowners. Recent decades have witnessed a dramatic resurgence of Monacan ethnic and political identity and independence. Theyhave won legal recognition as a tribe, collaborated with local universities to document their history, and worked to create a tribal museum.

Samuel R. Cook tells the story of the Monacans in a uniquely comparative way. Their changing fortunes and relationships with outsiders are juxtaposed with the experiences of Scottish and Irish settlers in rural Wyoming County, West Virginia, a region now dominated by the coal industry.