A good start for Mattanock

Published 9:56 pm Monday, September 9, 2013

They still are required to complete construction of Mattanock Town within five years in order to meet the requirements of the deed that recently was transferred from the city of Suffolk, but members of the Nansemond Indian Tribe have set a good pace with their decision to hold a series of educational events on a portion of the land that was the tribe’s ancestral home.

Mattanock Town is envisioned as a living history museum, where visitors can see a replica of a Native American settlement typical to the 17th-century area of what is now southeastern Virginia. Members of the tribe will demonstrate the various crafts and activities that sustained life for their ancestors from one season to the next, and visitors will be able to see what the buildings looked like for Indian villages of that time and place.

But the tribe isn’t waiting for everything to be built in order to get started with its educational effort. On Saturdays this month, members will be on the site — which the city recently signed over to the tribe with certain stipulations — doing some of the educational activities they plan for when the project is complete.

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There will be demonstrations of flintknapping, archery and other tasks necessary to daily life, along with a few things that will change every week. Dr. Helen Rountree, who is well known for her extensive research of the Indian tribes of southeastern Virginia, will help with some of the demonstrations, and visitors will get a chance to meet some of the folks from this area whose families’ presence here predates that of any European explorer.

“What we wanted to do was tell people we’re here,” Assistant Chief Earl Bass said last week. “We’re eager to get started with our programs.”

For their part, many of the people of Suffolk are eager to attend those programs and to see Mattanock Town become a great success for the Nansemond Indians. This month’s educational programs are an exciting development toward that end.

The events will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays in September at the tribe’s property at the end of Pembroke Lane, which runs off Godwin Boulevard directly across from Oakland Elementary School.