Something worth celebrating

Published 8:40 pm Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Nansemond Indians and their friends gathered in the tribe’s Lone Star Lakes Lodge on Sunday to celebrate a shared dream that has been 10 years in the making.

Mattanock Town, a place where the tribe will be able to present a living history of the natives of this part of Virginia, sometimes must have seemed more pipe dream than achievable aspiration, something that would never make its way from proposal to reality.

On Sunday, however, there were survey stakes in the ground marking the first physical steps in the process of bringing this shared dream alive. It was a good day for the Nansemond tribe and for the city of Suffolk, which had finally agreed to donate the land where the historic resource will be located.

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The tribe plans to use the land to create an authentic replica of an American Indian village with displays and attractions, nature trails, a museum and gift shop, a tribal center, powwow grounds and reburial grounds. The tribe envisions the village as an educational resource and tourist attraction.

Sunday was also a good day for the history of Suffolk, where Nansemond Indians made their homes long before the first Europeans, led by Capt. John Smith, sailed upstream on the river that took its name from the tribe. The land that Suffolk has promised to donate — between 70 and 100 acres, depending on the results of the survey — represents a portion of the tribe’s ancestral lands.

When it agreed to return the land at Lone Star Lakes Park to the tribe, Suffolk became one of the first jurisdictions in the nation to give land back to an Indian tribe that once owned it. Such a watershed moment in time deserved recognition, and the tribe’s “thank-you” reception on Sunday provided a chance for members to recognize the city for its promise and Nansemond supporters for their 10-year advocacy on behalf of this important project.

The next milestone will be the signing of the deed, for which Nansemond Chief Barry Bass expects another big ceremony. From our point of view, the signing will be worth every bit of pomp and circumstance that are attached to it.