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Tribe cut request but city said ‘No’

The Nansemond Indian tribe withdrew its plans for a 99-acre Mattanock Town development, but it still hoped to obtain a smaller plot for a tribal center, museum and reburial site, documents obtained from the city reveal.

“Although funding of the preferred plan for Mattanock Town is not foreseeable at this time, it is possible for NITA to maintain and operate a tribal center, museum and reburial sight [sic] within a compressed area at Lonestar Lakes Park,” attorney Whitney Saunders wrote in a June 9 letter to City Manager Selena Cuffee-Glenn.

Saunders detailed the economic difficulties the tribe is facing.

“Despite the hopes that all of us have had for the global economy, recession still appears to be thriving with no apparent hope of abatement,” Saunders said. “[I]n January of 2007 … the Nansemond Indian Tribal Association (NITA) had hoped to acquire 99 acres of Lonestar Lakes Park and establish a comprehensive Native-American heritage area complete with tribal center, authentic tribal village, pow wow event grounds and extensive supporting facilities. These plans were born in a period when grants from governmental sources and private sources were significantly more likely to become available than today.”

As a result, Saunders continued, the tribe was withdrawing its original proposal for the project and requesting a smaller portion of the park for a scaled-down project, which still would have included a tribal center, museum and reburial grounds.

“It remains the desire of NITA to recreate an authentic Nansemond Village on site and to use this site as the home for the annual Nansemond Pow Wow,” Saunders wrote.

He continued the tribe was willing to accept a number of conditions upon the land, including an explicit prohibition on gaming and restrictions that the land be used primarily for educational purposes about American Indian culture and heritage.

The reply from the city, however, shot down the transfer.

The city’s reply was polite but brief.

“Given NITA’s assessment of the current economic climate and the lack of available funding to support the proposed concept of the Mattanock Town Project, the City is not in a position to recommend disposition of the property as requested in your letter of June 9,” Cuffee-Glenn wrote in a letter dated July 13.

Suffolk will, however, continue to support the annual powwow, which occurs this year on Aug. 21-22, she added.

Messages left for Barry Bass, chief of the Nansemond Indian Tribe, were not returned.