Bill “Three Arrows” Gillenwaters, right, tutors Ben “Little Hawk” Stover in shooting a Powhatan-style bow and arrow at the Nansemond Indian Tribe ground blessing on Saturday.
Bill “Three Arrows” Gillenwaters, right, tutors Ben “Little Hawk” Stover in shooting a Powhatan-style bow and arrow at the Nansemond Indian Tribe ground blessing on Saturday.

Tribe blesses land

Published 10:23pm Monday, November 25, 2013

Members of the Nansemond Indian Tribe gathered on their land Saturday to give thanks for the many blessings they have had during the past year.

Chief among those blessings was finally obtaining ownership of a portion of their ancestral land, which was transferred by the city in an August deed-signing ceremony.

“I’m not too sure I can put it into words,” said Patti L. Bowman-Silvestri, the oldest living member of the tribe, who traveled by plane from Arizona for Saturday’s ground blessing ceremony.

“The purpose is to give thanks to Creator for putting the land here for us,” Chief Barry Bass said at the event. “I feel He’s responsible for putting us back here.”

Following tradition, guests abstained from alcohol for 48 hours before the event, shunned tribal regalia in favor of casual dress and socialized over traditional foods after the fireside ceremony.

Tribe members dined on chili and Three Sisters Stew — squash, corn and beans — ladled from huge pots over a fire, as well as smoked turkey and organic bread baked in a clay oven and topped with raw honey.

Bowman-Silvestri said the ground blessing held a lot of meaning for her.

“I live in a generation I saw my elders in a world of hurt for being Indians and were not allowed to say it,” she said. “Today, I felt I had to speak for them that couldn’t speak for themselves. It meant the world to me to be here.”

She also expressed her thanks to Suffolk City Council for voting to transfer the land, and to Chief Bass and Assistant Chief Earl Bass for their decade of hard work to make it happen.

“Everybody that helped put this together, I’d like to thank,” she said.

Bass said the Mattanock Town project — a replica Indian village, museum, powwow facilities and other attractions at the site on Pembroke Lane — is making progress.

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