Karenne Wood

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Karenne Wood, advocate and author[1]
Wood acknowledging that UVA is built on Monacan land at the start of UVA’s 2017 bicentennial celebration. Photo by Pat Jarrett, courtesy of Virginia Humanities.[2]

Karenne Wood (1960-2019) was an anthropologist known for her work in researching Virginia Native history, including that of her own Monacan tribe.[1]


Karenne Wood was a lifelong Virginia resident; born in Northern Virginia and a resident of Fluvanna County. She knew from a young age that her father was Native American, but it wasn't until 1990 that she discovered documentation of her Monacan heritage. She was certified with the tribe in 1995.

Wood earned a Master of Fine Arts in poetry from George Mason University.[3]

In 2016, she received her PhD in anthropology from the University of Virginia. Her family said they were proudest of Wood for this achievement. Her daughter, Adrienne Brown, said after her mother was awarded her doctorate: “My mother did not graduate from high school but persevered and achieved so much more than she ever thought possible.”[1]

Wood died on July 21, 2019 after fighting cancer. She was 59. [1]


Locally, Wood protested the placement of Sacagawea near Meriwether Lewis and William Clark’s feet on a statue added downtown in 1919, as well as the 1921 statue of George Rogers Clark trampling Native Americans.[1]

Wood published two collections: Markings on Earth (2001) and Weaving the Boundary (2016). She also contributed several times to anthologies of Native writing.

Wood worked at the National Museum of the American Indian as a researcher, held a gubernatorial appointment as Chair of the Virginia Council on Indians for four years, and directed a tribal history project with the Monacan Nation for six years.[4] She has served on the National Congress of American Indians’ Repatriation Commission. She was the Virginia Humanities Repatriation Director for the Association on American Indian Affairs, coordinating the return of sacred objects to Native communities.[4]

Wood came onto the Virginia Humanities board in 2004 as the first Virginia Indian representative and served on staff beginning in 2007. [2][4] Her award-winning work for Virginia Humanities’ Virginia Indian programs included numerous statewide speaking engagements, a printed guide to the state-recognized tribes and nations, and helped update Virginia’s Standards of Learning to make sure indigenous people were referred to in the present tense.[1][4]

Wood edited the Virginia Indian Heritage trail, published by Virginia Humanities, led the “Beyond Jamestown” Teachers’ Institute and curated the “Beyond Jamestown: Virginia Indians Past and Present” exhibit at the Virginia Museum of Natural History.[4]

In 2008, she was named director of the Virginia Indian Heritage Program.[4]


In 2015, Wood was recognized by the Library of Virginia as one of their Women of the Year.[1]

Her work for Virginia Humanities’ Virginia Indian programs received the Federation of State Humanities Programs’ highest honor, the Schwartz Prize.[1]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 Web. Karenne Wood remembered for lifetime of work advocating for indigenous Virginians, Ruth Serven Smith, Daily Progress, Lee Enterprises, July 28, 2019, retrieved July 28, 2019.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Web. In Memoriam: Karenne Wood, a Lifelong Advocate for Virginia Indians, Caroline Newman, News Article, UVA Today, July 29, 2019, retrieved July 13, 2021.
  3. Web. Karenne Wood, Website, Virginia Changemakers, 2015, retrieved July 13, 2021.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 Web. Accolades: Karenne Wood, Anne E. Bromley, News Article, UVA Today, February 14, 2008, retrieved July 13, 2021.

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