Chief of Nansemond Tribe says remains found in Virginia likely tribal ancestors

Nansemond Chief Lee Lockamy (left) at the Nansemond Powwow in 2017 alongside traditional dancers. Photo: Vincent Schilling

Vincent Schilling

After research, the remains will be returned to the Nansemond tribe who will then re-inter the remains to burial grounds

Vincent Schilling

Indian Country Today

Police have told local news reporters in Hampton, Virginia, that skeletal remains found in at a construction site appear to be from members of the Nansemond Tribe. Nansemond chief Lee Lockamy says the remains could likely be ancestors of his own tribe.

The Nansemond tribe, part of the Powhatan Nation lived in the area before the English came to Hampton Roads, south of Jamestown, in the early 1600s. The Nansemond were one of six Virginia tribes that received federal recognition this year. The six Virginia tribes to receive federal recognition were the Chickahominy, Eastern Chickahominy, Upper Mattaponi, Rappahannock, Monacan, and Nansemond.

The significance of the Nansemond’s federal status means there are greater measures in place for federally recognized tribes to re-inter remains in adherence to Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) which requires federal agencies to return Native American cultural items, remains and sacred objects to Indian tribes and Native Hawaiian organizations.

See related story: Now There`s 573! 6 VA Tribes Get Federal Recognition as President Signs Bill

According to WAVY TV 10, Police said that crews found two sets of remains within 10 days at the same construction site off North Mallory Street in the Phoebus area of the city. The first set was found May 21, while the second was discovered May 30. Both sets of remains were turned over to the Department of Historic Resources, Archeology Department in Richmond.

When Chief Lockamy came to survey the area, he found stones which were likely used as tools. “It’s rare for a stone to have two flat sides. These are the things that tell if they are tools,” he said to the Daily Press.

“It’s sad that it was discovered,” Lockamy said to the Press. “It’s good that they took the time and let us come out here and they worked with us. They could have dug them up and put them in the dumpster, which a lot of developers do.”

Lockamy says the first set of remains were identified as a ‘female Indian burial.’ “The way you can tell that is she was in the fetal position on her right hand side. That is typical of the Woodland Indian burials in this area.”

The second set of remains was believed to be a male, and was buried about 8 feet from the female. Lockamy says the male was also in the fetal position on his side.

In addition to the remains, archaeologists found fire pits and shells, which might indicate a hunting camp.

Once archeologists finish their research, the remains will be returned to the Nansemond tribe who will then re-inter the remains to the sacred tribal burial grounds in Suffolk, Virginia.

“When you start finding clam shells and periwinkle next thing you know you’re finding pottery … you know you’re on a site,” Lockamy said to the Daily Press.


Follow Indian Country Today’s associate editor and senior correspondent, Vincent Schilling (Akwesasne Mohawk) on Twitter - @VinceSchilling