Too many chiefs, too few Indians

Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 21, 2002

Special to the News-Herald.

This column is an opinion piece, I write what’s in my heart. Wednesday’s council meeting, as it related to the Nansemond Indian village proposal, is a deliberate stalling tactic. There is plenty of information available, and has been for some time, so who in hell needs a task force? The plan for an Indian village, the only one on the East Coast, has been talked to death. I’ll go a step further and point to an assistant city manager that aspires to become THE manager, as the one person in Suffolk who in this century is still fighting the Indians. Not man-to-man with spear and knife, but with legal maneuvering. Look at this &uot;Task Force&uot; appointed, suddenly, out of nowhere, seven city officials, four Indians. Not only are blacks on the force merely a token (one), a 7-to-4 ratio of City officials and Indians makes it certain the Indians will sit in the back of the bus.

How many Indians did you see at the Council meeting when the resolution was passed to create the &uot;force&uot;? That’s right, none, they were not notified in advance. Chief Bass would have filled the chambers with warriors to either speak for or against the resolution. They were not only not invited they were broadsided. So what appears to be a &uot;step forward&uot; toward creating a much-needed tourist attraction, this task force, being improperly led by one who does not favor its completion, will dawdle and fiddle and stall. Many of us were hoping this Council would take back its role of being in command of the city, directed by a city manager, not under his thumb. I’ll bet everyone on Council favors giving the measly 140 acres to the Nansemond Indians, but appears to be following in lockstep the dictates from above.

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The idea for the village is a great one, tied in with the Jamestown fort and village, a very important part of history. Jamestown will be having a huge celebration in 2007, and if Council gets off its butt we will benefit from the overflow as history buffs from all over head this way with money. I don’t know about Chief Bass – he is a very nice big man with contained patience – but if I were him I’d want some changes on the task force, and I’d start at the top. Or I’d pack up and take the village idea elsewhere.

The only hope now is that the task force members are strong enough to think for themselves, and act for themselves. Before there is any conversation with city officials they should get with Chief Bass and Dot Dalton who speak for the Nansemond Indians. There they will get the many positives that will add to the assets of Suffolk. Then talk to the leader of the city officials who will provide the negatives. The exception would be Lynette Brugeman, director of tourism. I’m afraid that any members of council will just go along with what the boss says.

I’d sure love to be wrong about this, and if I am I will profusely apologize to all concerned. But right now I smell a rat. Instinct tells me that one, possibly two, city officials are calling the shots, and for an undisclosed reason. Not that they are anti-Indian, they just don’t want to make a mistake giving away part of Lone Star Lakes acreage. But at one time they agreed the village was a wonderful idea but wanted to put it in Driver, which made no sense except to them. So it boils down to giving up a piece of Lone Star and the question is why. Most of the land the Nansemonds want is useless, marshy wetland. Of course, to be authentic, they want water and trees; all early villages, Indians and White Eyes, were on water of some kind. We’re talking about 140 out of 1,200 acres.

If there is anyone out there, besides city officials, who does not favor the Nansemond Indians’ project, let’s hear from them. Send a letter to the editor. And maybe, if you care about such things, call your council member and suggest action. We are blowing millions on the Wharf, the high school, the railroad station, etc. The Nansemond Indians don’t want a dime. A simple deed will suffice. We don’t want to lose the deal to another city. When your relatives come to town, say &uot;Hey, let’s go see something unique, the Indian village. It’s just up the road a piece.&uot;

Robert Pocklington is a regular News-Herald columnist.