Nansemond nation celebrates unity, life at powwow

Published 8:32 pm Monday, August 21, 2023

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

Saturday and Sunday focused on celebrating peace, nature and life as the Nansemond nation celebrated its 35th annual Powwow in Suffolk.

Held both Saturday, Aug. 19 and Sunday, Aug. 20, at Mattanock Town off Pembroke Lane, the bright sunny days united residents from Suffolk and beyond with Nansemond Indian tribe members to honor Native American culture through traditional dance, along with vendors, shopping and food. 

Chief Emeritus Sam Bass thanked the Creator for the wonderful weather at the event while acknowledging the turnout.

Email newsletter signup

“A day with all these people, all these citizens coming from all over the state, to attend this powwow. We have people from all walks of life. A motorcycle club is here, a hiking club is here. There’s just all kinds of groups here,” Bass said. “Tribes from all over the state of Virginia and North Carolina are attending. It’s great.”

Bass explained that a powwow is a celebration of Native Americans coming together in unity.

“We’re thanking the Creator for all his blessings – the sunrise, the sunset, the sun, the moon, the stars – all of creation,” Bass said. “And we’re [celebrating] that we are still here and we’re not from the past, and you can speak in present terms as an Indian Tribe, and that’s me being an Native American. I am still here. I am a Native American. That’s my story, and I’ll stick to it.”

Spectators attending the event shared their reasons turning out for the powwow.

Kimberly Gardener discussed the importance of supporting the Nansemond Indian Tribe.

“I support the tribe at every chance,” Gardener said. “I love to come out and wander. It’s beautiful.”

Daniel Brooks said he wants to learn about indigenous people, explaining he wants to come away from the day with a reconnection with nature.

“Hopefully, we can find some semblance of balance,” Brooks said.

Nansemond Indian Nation Council Secretary Barbara Orf said the day also is about “family” along with forgetting about all the bad in the world while enjoying the day.

“Seeing the kids from a year that have grown up and have gotten bigger and improving their dance skills and enjoying seeing the community” are what’s important for Orf. “To come in and support us, and enjoy attending the powwow, whether they’ve been here 20 times or it’s their first time. It’s just an awesome event.” 

David Blackfeather Darling, the Nansemond Indian Tribal Counselor, said the powwow serves as both a “powerful experience” for him and as a return home.

“A lot of our people over the years have been dispersed around the country,” Darling said. “I grew up very knowledgeable about my heritage and about my culture, but far away. So for me, even though I never really lived here this really feels like a homecoming to me.”

He hopes residents experience the culture and the community that surrounds it.

“It’s something that is not as pervasive anymore in today’s culture,” Darling said. “So for me, it’s exciting for people to be able to [have] a chance to see it and experience it and hear it and smell it, you know the sage in the air, I think it’s an exciting time for everyone to kind of get an escape and learn something about their community.”