The Nansemond Indian Tribe of Virginia, an American Indian tribe that has been recognized by the Commonwealth of Virginia since 1983, recently celebrated along with an appreciative public, the 15th Annual American Indian Festival on June 4th and 5th at the Chesapeake City Park in Chesapeake, Virginia.
The tribe, led by Chief Barry W. “Big Buck” Bass and Assistant Chief Earl L.“War Chief” Bass II seemed in good spirits for a number of reasons: Beautiful weather, a great turnout of Native dancers and drummers and an equally great turnout of the general public.
The Chesapeake City Mayor Alan Krasnoff, who attended the event and presented gifts to the tribe, took a moment to comment. “This is the 15th Annual American Indian Festival in the City of Chesapeake and I am so glad the Nansemond Indians came here. It’s great to honor them and to honor our veterans. This is just a great event to celebrate their life.”
The Master of Ceremonies was Michael Cloud Butler. “The day was really more than I expected, it is always nice to have a nice big enthusiastic crowd to talk to and to see dancers and drummers that are good at what they do. I am very pleased to be here.”
According to the event coordinator and son of the Chief, Jesse W. Bass, the event was particularly exciting because it was the first time he had ever arranged such an event. “This was absolutely great, I have had no sleep for about two months and it has all been worth it. As you can see, it’s packed, and everyone is having a really good time. People are getting educated today and without some sort of education, there is no point in doing it.”
Jesse W. Bass also stated the tribe was as equally pleased that the city of Suffolk had recently returned approximately 100 acres of land to the tribe, which will in turn work to convert the riverfront property into a replica of a 17th century American Indian Nansemond village.
“We were deeded the piece of land in Chuckatuck, Virginia. After 15 years of beating down the door of the courthouse, they finally let us in. We are waiting on the deed signing now. This is a historic moment. This is something to truly cherish.”
In addition to the modern fare generally offered at pow wows and American Indian celebrations to include food and Native craft vendors, the crowd seemed particularly interested in a survival demonstration presented by Bill and Susie Gingras, a pleasing flute and drum performance by Stuart Cardwell and Robin Guthrie and live hawk handlers Jimmy “Two-Hawks” and Pearl "Runningbird" Beamer.
Overall, said Bass, “The Creator just blessed us all with a really wonderful day.”
Although they’re recognized by their state, the Nansemond Indians have not yet received federal recognition. Today the Nansemond Indians, along with six other Virginia tribes (the Chickahominy, Eastern Chickahominy, Upper Mattaponi, Rappahannock and the Monacan) are waiting for the passage of the “Thomasina E. Jordan Indian Tribes of Virginia Federal Recognition Act.”
The bill, which passed the House Committee on Natural Resources and the US House of Representatives as of June 2009 and was later approved by the Senate committee on Indian affairs, ultimately was red-stamped with a “hold” by Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) who believes the process for tribal recognition should go through the BIA. The final outcome of the bill is uncertain.
In Virginia, there are 5 additional tribes not involved with the Thomasina E. Jordan bill recognition process. They are the Pamunkey and Mattaponi recognized in 1983 and the Nottoway Indian tribe of Virginia, The Patawomeck and Cheroenhaka which were recognized in 2010.
The Nansemond aren’t letting the federal hold up dampen their spirits or their commitment to educating the public on their heritage—their 23rd Annual Pow Wow will be held at the Lone Star Lakes Lodge, in Suffolk, on August 20 and 21st.
For more information go to www.nansemond.org