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Powwow, dedication a success

Published 10:11pm Monday, August 19, 2013

Last week’s column was about the historic occasion of the Nansemond Indian Tribal Association’s 25th annual powwow, held last weekend.

I wrote about the event in the hope that many people would come out to witness the land dedication ceremony, and I was not disappointed. There were more people at Saturday’s events than I’ve ever seen at the powwow.

The land dedication ceremony was beautiful and drew many city officials who have been conspicuously absent in past years. City Council members — including one who once opposed the deal — and the city manager all put their signatures to a ceremonial document, also signed by the tribe’s Chief Barry Bass and Assistant Chief Earl Bass. Barry Bass said he hopes to have the document framed for posterity.

The tribal members, whose ancestors lived here in what’s now called Suffolk long before European settlers began arriving in the early 1600s, now have what they rightfully deserve, what was taken from their ancestors by force nearly four centuries ago.

But the tribe doesn’t plan to keep the land all to itself. Members plan to build an authentic replica of their former village, complete with buildings and gardens, to show future generations how the Nansemond and other Eastern Virginia tribes lived before the invaders came. The site will also hold a museum and gift shop, tribal center, powwow facilities and other useful and educational sites.

The tribe hopes the attraction, called Mattanock Town after the historical name of the village that was located on that site, can be a complement to other historical sites in the area like Colonial Williamsburg and Jamestown.

There were a number of delays throughout the 12-year process needed to regain control of this land — the largest part of which was due to opposition on City Council — and the longsuffering tribal leaders plodded through the delays with grace and dignity.

Now, I hope the development moves forward with a great deal of speed, since the city has retained the right to take the land back if the development isn’t completed in five years. I look forward to covering the many good stories to come.

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