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Pow wow celebrates Suffolk

Published 7:52pm Saturday, August 21, 2010

Chief Barry Bass simply sat in his chair, looked out over the hundreds of guests assembled and smiled. For years about this time, he has done the exactly same thing, and he plans to do it for years to come.

With this family around him, he took in the warm breeze off the Nansemond River and, “felt the spirits of [his] ancestors around him.”

For a few moments Saturday afternoon, I felt the exact same thing.

Among Suffolk’s must-see and must-attend events of the year, the annual Nansemond Indian Tribal Association’s pow wow brings together representatives from a number of American Indian Tribes in an effort to celebrate their heritage, share their history and honor their ancestors.

As a lover of history, I stopped and thought for just a moment, what would have been happening along that same sliver of land on the edge of the Nansemond in Chuckatuck hundreds of years ago.

Would there have been a similar gathering of tribes, dancing, enjoying each other’s company and sharing far too much food? I’d like to think so, but I’m pretty sure the long line of people wanting a warm funnel cake would not have been there.

The association has worked hard to build this event into the spectacle it has become. Visitors from throughout Hampton Roads and the region come to observe the traditional dances, buy handmade items from dozens of vendors and enjoy a majestic weekend in Suffolk.

It is events such as this one, that happen almost every weekend in Suffolk, that are the fiber from which this city is made. It’s not for the industries or highways that Suffolk is known, it is the people. It is not the schools or the municipal leadership that hold the city together, it is our shared history.

For just a moment Saturday I could feel the approval of Bass’ ancestors. Another year had come and with it a great celebration of a people’s heritage. But Saturday’s event was not just a celebration of those who are of Native American ancestry; it was a celebration of all of our history.

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