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A few steps at Mattanock Town

The dream of building a village that would replicate the historical seat of society for the Nansemond Indian Tribe was always one that would require help from the community to turn into reality.

For many years, the tribe has wanted to construct a place where visitors could come and see how the Nansemond’s ancestors lived alongside the river whose name they shared. There would be longhouses and lean-to shelters, a tribal museum and a log school. There would be walking trails and reburial grounds, a powwow area and a cultural park.

Visitors would be able to spend a few hours in the village and leave with a better understanding of the importance of the Nansemond Indians to the early history of this area now known as Suffolk. They would leave the replica village with an appreciation of the way members of the tribe lived in harmony with nature and one another.

But it was always going to be a big task, one that could not be completed simply by the hard work of tribal members, nor even through monetary donations to help meet the $5 million estimated cost of the project. When Suffolk City Council agreed to deed the property back to the tribe, everyone knew it would take the concerted efforts of many to put the project together.

The tribe still has far to go before the project is complete, and leaders say they plan to discuss the progress — and the previously stipulated five-year deadline for completion — with city officials soon.

But one group has been doing everything it can to help get Mattanock Town built. The scouts of Suffolk’s Boy Scout Troop 16 have made Mattanock Town something of a pet project.

Two Eagle Scout projects there have resulted in construction of the chief’s longhouse and an adjacent lean-to structure, as well as another long house and lean-to. The long houses require some special construction techniques, and scouts had to be trained in the old ways to make the structures authentic. They have worked in all kinds of weather and through long days at the site in an effort to help the tribe move the project forward.

In fact, the scouts have other projects in mind for the property. The boys have plans to erect a special arrow-shaped flagpole on the property, and they plan to place mulch along the walking trails to help deter the growth of weeds.

Suffolk is fortunate that the Nansemond tribe continues to desire a connection with its historic roots. The city is also blessed to have a Boy Scout troop that takes its responsibility to the community so seriously and for leaders of that troop who recognized the importance of helping the tribe achieve its vision.

It will be a while before Suffolk sees the vision for Mattanock Town come to completion, but these young men and boys have helped move a few important steps along that road.