City’s offer to tribe a good one

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 8, 2003

It’s highly unlikely that the seemingly hard line stance taken by City Council Wednesday in its dealings with the Nansemond Indians will result in conflict resolution.

Emotions and pride have been at the center of negotiations on the proposed Mattanock Town since the get go. The city’s &uot;take it or leave it&uot; resolution will likely only stir more of the same.

While one may well take issue with the bullying nature of the resolution, City Council’s position has a solid foundation.

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From the start, it was obvious that the Nansemonds’ plan to take over Lone Star Lakes made city officials cringe. It did not fit with long-range plans. As such, the city made every effort to strong arm the Indians into building their town on the transmitter property in Driver.

Eventually, however, the city came around, agreeing to lease the Nansemonds adequate space at Lone Star Lakes as well as agreeing to share in project costs.

The Nansemonds have balked at the offer, refusing to share business plans and claiming that outright ownership of the land is integral to securing funding for the project. Investigation by the city has shown that that is not necessarily the case. Land ownership appears to not be as much as a stumbling block as federal recognition of the Nansemonds as a tribe.

If the city’s offer is refused, then one could easily conclude that Mattanock Town was never more than a scheme to wrest property from the city. And while descendants of those who were swindled, killed and had their property stripped from them have a legitimate argument for restoration, it should not be masked as something that it’s not, and the courts are the proper venue for making such an argument.

Mattanock Town, as originally presented, would be a good project for all involved, preserving the proud Nansemond culture for future generations and providing Suffolk with a real tourist draw. The city’s offer is a good one for the Nansemonds because it will give them the assistance they need in seeing Mattanock Town prosper and could eventually lead to ownership of the property.

Mattanock Town was presented as a cultural, economic project, not a land grab. Pride and emotion aside, the city’s offer can make that happen and should be accepted.