‘Just come out and see’

Published 8:30 pm Monday, August 10, 2015

If you don’t already have plans for the weekend, you should plan now to spend time at the Nansemond Indian Powwow, set for Saturday and Sunday on the site of the tribe’s future historical interpretive site, Mattanock Town, located at the end of Pembroke Lane in Chuckatuck.

If you already have plans, you might want to consider changing them to incorporate a visit to the event.

The powwow is one of the most culturally significant events of the year in Suffolk, at least from a historical perspective. It is one of the biggest ways members of the Nansemond Indian Tribe teach outsiders from the area about the tribe’s rich history and culture.

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This year promises to provide an especially rich look inside the historically important tribe’s heritage. New this year are the two longhouses — one completed and one in an exposed framework stage — that will eventually be part of the tribe’s Mattanock Town cultural village display. A dugout canoe, cooking grid and other displays also are at the ready, Chief Earl Bass said.

Mattanock Town is an area tribal leaders believe was once at or near the location of the Nansemond’s native village. It had been part of the city’s Lone Star Lakes Park until 2013, when the property was conditionally deeded to the tribe for development of the historic area leaders are now planning.

The longhouses and other exhibits planned for this weekend’s powwow will help give visitors a feel for what’s on the drawing board. Organizers hope the displays also convince some of those visitors to help get those plans off the drawing board and into action.

The Nansemonds were given five years to complete the project under the conditions of the transfer, and they are still struggling to raise money for it, Bass told the Suffolk News-Herald’s Tracy Agnew last week. And despite its free admission, the powwow is one of the tribe’s biggest fundraisers of the year. More visitors buying food and supporting vendors will mean more money to launch the Mattanock Town project.

Powwow organizers also expect extra dancers to take part in the event this year, as special “honor dances” are planned for a Chickahominy tribal dancer who died this year. There will also be plenty of food on hand, as well as a variety of demonstrations related to tribal life when the Nansemonds flourished on the site 400 years ago.

“Just come out and see,” Bass said. “It’s a good family event. It doesn’t cost anybody anything to come. We’re just trying to keep our ancestors and that culture alive. It seems like it gets more difficult every year.”

The powwow runs from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday. The grand entry of dancers takes place at noon on Saturday and at 1 p.m. on Sunday. Pembroke Lane is located off Godwin Boulevard, directly across from Oakland Elementary School.