Suffolk, Virginia apparently made history on Wednesday when elected leaders agreed for the first time in that state’s modern history to voluntarily give land to natives.
City council members voted in favor of the plan 7 to 1. Mayor Linda Johnson said she had “never been more proud of a vote. . . . “I think this is going to put Suffolk on the map. It’s what they deserve, it’s the right thing to do, and I’m just really, really happy.”
The city granted the land to the Nansemond Indian Tribe. There are no federally recognized tribes in Virigina. The Nansemond are recognized by the state.
Nansemond Chief Barry Bass told council members, “Mattanock Town will give Nansemond people land that was once the site of one of our villages, and can once again become our sacred home.”
Chief Bass has worked toward creating Mattanock Town for about a decade. He and several other speakers said it will bring the Nansemond heritage back to the city. Mattanock Town will include hiking trails, picnic areas, Pow Wow grounds, and a museum.
The council gave land at Lone Star Lakes Park to the Nansemond Indian Tribal Association (NITA) to build an authentic village.
Members of the Nansemond tribe trace their roots back to the 1638 wedding of Captain John Bass and a woman named Elizabeth, who was the daughter of a Nansemond Chief.
The project is expected to draw tourists to Suffolk. Native American education will also be available which would help Virginia students fulfill Standards of Learning requirements.
City Manager, Selena Cuffee-Glenn explained that there are currently no development plans outside of Lone Star Lakes Park, so restrictions or requirements were not a part of the deed transfer discussion.
There is a list of requirements NITA must comply with for the deed transfer to be complete. On the list are prohibitions of gambling and casinos, as well as an agreement that NITA will fund any improvements to the property.
Lone Star Lakes Park is nearly 1100 acres of undeveloped property, including wetlands in Suffolk. Mattanock Town will cover approximately 70 acres, of which NITA contends only 44 acres would be buildable. The rest would be preserved and used for nature and environmental education and scenic overlooks.