Public Release: 

Book compares Native American and coal-mining communities in Appalachia

Virginia Tech

Blacksburg, VA -- Monacans and Miners: Native American and Coal Mining Communities in Appalachia by Samuel R. Cook compares the political, economic, and social experiences of the indigenous Monacan people of Amherst County, Va., and the Scottish and Irish settlers of Wyoming County, W. Va., in the late 18th century.

"Both communities have endured colonial situations as outside forces sought to exploit their land and labor," said Cook, who teaches in Virginia Tech's Center for Interdisciplinary Studies in the College of Arts and Sciences and is coordinator of its American Indian Studies Program.

"The Monacans are the descendants of a powerful people who both fought and traded with the Powhatan Indians," according to the book's publisher, the University of Nebraska Press. As Europeans made their way West, some of the Monacans found homes in the Blue Ridge Mountains. However, they and other Native Americans were listed as black and not permitted to vote or hold office. Many also were "forced into indentured servitude, laboring in apple orchards for large landowners," according to the publisher. In recent years, however, the Monacans have made great strides in regaining their independence and their identity as both an ethnic group and a political force by winning state recognition as a tribe, working with universities in the Commonwealth to document their history, and beginning to create a tribal museum.

"In the long run, profound changes in the local and national social, political, and economic climate made it possible for the Monacans to break the bonds of colonialism and to assert their autonomy as a tribal community," Cook said.

On the other hand, he said, the Scottish and Irish in Wyoming County, W.Va., "must still contend with skewed power structures, especially at the state level, that cater to the coal industry often at the expense of the larger interests of the citizenry."

Monacans and Miners is the first book to be published about the Monacans on an internationally known press. It is available from the University of Nebraska Press.

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PR Contact: Sally Harris
540-231-6759
slharris@vt.edu

Author: Samuel R. Cook
sacook2@vt.edu
540-231-5812

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