Village slowly rising in Chuckatuck

Published 10:14 pm Monday, May 16, 2016

Sometimes, it’s hard to envision a concept — a mere idea on paper — ever becoming a reality.

Years ago, when the Nansemond Indian Tribal Association first proposed Mattanock Town, it was hard to fathom. Even today, the idea of a $5 million Indian cultural and educational center on the banks of the Nansemond River, near Chuckatuck, sounds overwhelming.

In August 2013, the Suffolk City Council transferred ownership of 70 acres of waterfront property — near the tribe’s ancestral grounds — over to NITA. That agreement also stipulates that ownership of the property will revert back to the city if Mattanock Town is not finished within five years, by Jan. 31, 2018.


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Several months ago, Nansemond Chief Earl Bass said he anticipates having to ask city leaders for an extension at some point. Progress has been slow, stymied by the loss of their architect and grant sources that aren’t as abundant as they once were.

Nonetheless, progress is being made, thanks to several local Boy Scouts who have made — or have committed to make — Mattanock Town their Eagle projects. Several weeks ago, I covered the dedication of two new longhouses — single-room, beehive-shaped structures covered with woven reed mats — and a wooden lean-to shelter built by members of Driver Boy Scout Troop 16.

Nearby, in the woods close to Cedar Creek, the Scouts are clearing a site for the next Eagle project: Construction of the chief’s larger longhouse. Another scout will be erecting a flagpole for the tribe as part of his Eagle project.

At the end of the day, Mattanock Town may not be the $5 million project, finished within five years, that was originally proposed.

But I argue that what’s out there is better.

The longhouses under the canopy of cedar trees emerged from a longstanding partnership between the Scouts and the Nansemonds, They were built as a result of Nansemond tribal members who shared their ancestors’ skills with tomorrow’s leaders, thanks to a community that chipped in to donate saplings or money for supplies.

Ever so slowly, we have a village — being built by a village — for a village.