Two and a half years after Virginia’s Nansemond Indian Nation received federal recognition, the tribe is helping to restore oysters in its ancestral home.
The Nansemond Indian Nation regained about 75 acres of Nansemond River waterfront from the city of Suffolk back in 2013 to reconstruct part of the territory the tribe was forced off of in the 1600s. Since the land was returned to them, the Nansemond people have reconstructed Mattanock from its ancestral land. The tribe gained federal recognition in 2018, along with five other Virginia tribes along the Chesapeake Bay.
This year, the Nansemond Indian Nation became a part of the Chesapeake Oyster Alliance—a coalition of nonprofits, community organizations, oyster growers, and others with a goal of adding 10 billion oysters in the Bay by 2025.
The Nansemond people say the river is a key part of their history, and have already raised $3,000 to focus on Nansemond River restoration efforts.
“The environment is the foundation of our identity. Today, we are racially diverse, we are socially diverse, we are economically diverse—what unites us is our environment, our community, our culture, and our shared ancestry in this region,” says tribal representative Nikki Bass.
Members of the Nansemond Indian Nation will grow oysters in the Nansemond River through the Alliance’s oyster gardener program, which will help bring back a thriving oyster population in the Bay.
-Meg Walburn Viviano