Connecting with history

Published 9:49 pm Tuesday, August 16, 2016

One of Suffolk’s biggest and most culturally significant events of the year is set to take place this weekend, and folks in the city should take advantage of the opportunity to learn a little about its past and connect with a culture with roots far deeper than the European settlers who “discovered” a community that had existed long before they arrived in the Chesapeake Bay region.

The annual Nansemond Indian Tribe Powwow will be held Saturday and Sunday on the tribe’s Chuckatuck land, where work is well under way to build a replica village that will help tell the story of the Native Americans who made their homes along the banks of the Nansemond River.

Mattanock Town, as the village will be known, already boasts longhouses and a mile-long trail through the woods, thanks to members of the tribe and volunteers who have dedicated long hours to beginning to turn the tribe’s vision into reality. Eventually, members of the tribe hope to build an authentic replica of what a Nansemond village would have looked like in the early 1600s, before European settlers arrived in the area and caused the tribe to disperse.

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Visitors to the powwow this weekend will get a taste of what that village will look like. At the same time, they’ll enjoy an immersive experience of Indian dancing, music, food, dress, crafts and culture.

“People should come out and know that the Native American heritage is still alive and functioning,” Chief Earl Bass said this week. “We haven’t ever gone anywhere. We’re still here and still trying to keep our heritage alive for future generations.”

Food sales at the powwow will benefit the tribe’s efforts. Indian tacos and fry bread will be available, as well as items such as hamburgers and hot dogs.

Smoky River and War Paint will provide the music and singing, Bass said. Kay Oxendine is the mistress of ceremonies, and Ree and Dwayne Davis will be the principal dancers.

Dancing is the primary entertainment at the powwow, and the audience is invited to participate in some of the dances. A number of authentic Indian crafts and displays are available for purchase and for educational purchases.

Admission to the event is free, and it runs from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. both days. A grand entry of dancers is set for noon on Saturday and 1 p.m. on Sunday.

The powwow grounds are located at the end of Pembroke Lane, which runs off Godwin Boulevard directly across from Oakland Elementary School.

Expect to be surprised at just how much fun you can have connecting with Suffolk’s history.