Virginia city returns land to Nansemond tribe

Suffolk, Virginia (AP) November 2010

Suffolk has returned 100 acres in Lone Star Lakes Park to the Nansemond tribe, which plans to convert the prime riverfront property into an $8 million replica of a 17th century village.

The privately funded project will include a cultural center, hiking trails, gift shop and burial ground. The Virginian-Pilot reports that the tribe hopes the village, to be called Mattanock Town, will draw up to 50,000 paying visitors annually.

“We wanted this land back because it means so much to us,” Nansemond chief Barry Bass told the newspaper. “But we want to give back to the city, too, and to share our history and culture with the public and with our own people. If that means being a tourist attraction, then that’s what it will be.”

He added that the tribe wants Mattanock Town to be a working village. Wooden longhouses will be scattered around the property and separated by garden plots, just as a Nansemond village would have appeared in the 17th century.

“When people come here in different seasons, we want them to see the changes, the different crops, and so on,” Bass said.

He said the tribe already has received some donations and pledges of support for the project. The tribe will seek grants, corporate sponsors and individual donors after it officially takes ownership of the property, Bass said.

Supporters hope Mattanock Town will complement Jamestown as a tourist destination for history buffs, school groups and others interested in experiencing a re-creation of traditional Indian culture.

Bass and his tribe also hope to preserve and transmit the Nansemond culture among their own. Of some 350 members of the Nansemond Indian Tribal Association, Bass said, the largest concentration is in southern Virginia. But many are scattered around the country.