Archived Story

Trust and cooperation

Published 8:06pm Saturday, February 2, 2013

It was a long time coming, but the Nansemond Indian Tribal Association finally inked a deal with the city of Suffolk for the transfer of property at Lone Star Lakes Park that will be used to re-create a 17th-century Indian village that once stood near the site.

The agreement, which was signed by tribal leaders on Thursday, brings to an end years of negotiations between the city and the Nansemond Indian Tribal Association over the property set aside for what is slated to become “Mattanock Town.”

City Council had voted in November 2010 to direct staff to transfer the 70-acre parcel, but the tribe’s lawyers had trouble with some provisions in the agreement and had advised them not to sign it. Last month, council members voted to give the tribe an ultimatum: Sign the agreement by June 30 the way it had been drafted or risk having it rescinded completely.

On Thursday, tribal leaders seem to have done just that, but only after a meeting with Mayor Linda Johnson, during which, the mayor had told a reporter previously, she intended to assure the Nansemonds she was personally committed to finding a way to make the project come to fruition.

Those assurances seem to have made the difference, as city staff members said Thursday the signed agreement was materially unchanged from the one the tribe’s lawyers had said would not give the Nansemond Indian Tribal Association clear ownership of the property.

It may be that in the final analysis, the tribe considered an imperfect agreement to be superior to no agreement. Chief Barry Bass has remained publicly silent about the deal since it was signed, though he was quoted in a city press release announcing the transfer as saying, “We appreciate the faith that Mayor Johnson and City Council have in the project. We are also thankful for the continued support of the citizens of Suffolk. We will make this a project that not only preserves our heritage but also is something the citizens of Suffolk will be proud to have in their city.”

Johnson, in the same press release, referred to the need for “trust and the ability to work together” between the city and the tribe. Her meeting with Bass was intended to convey that trust and confirm the tribe is willing to work with the city to bring the project to completion.

It’s good to see the agreement finally signed and to know the Nansemond Tribe is ready to begin work on this project, which will be important to the tribe’s heritage in Suffolk and to the city’s tourism industry. We hope the spirit of trust and cooperation continues for both parties.

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