SUFFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — The largest federally recognized Native American tribe in Hampton Roads is concerned with the path of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.
The Nansemond Indian Nation posted on Facebook last week that they had environmental and archeological concerns with the pipeline’s planned path through parts of Suffolk and Chesapeake.
The 600-mile-long natural gas pipeline running from West Virginia to North Carolina will pass under the Nansemond River just north of the Nansemond Golf Club and will also pass through Chesapeake in the Yankin neighborhood.
Both places are historically significant to the nation according to Chief Samuel Bass.
“Our culture and our heritage is rich to us,” Bass said. “We’re concerned with the pipeline going through and the cemetery being disrupted. We have ancestors, it’s culture.”
While the City of Suffolk gave Atlantic Coast Pipeline LLC. permission to build and operate within the city limits back in September, Bass said the Nation, which owns property along the Nansemond River in the city, was never consulted.
“We are not anti-progress,” Bass said “We don’t want anything but the respect of helping us to preserve our heritage.”
Dominion Energy insists they did reach out to the tribe.
“We have profound respect for the Nansemond tribe and its history. This project is going to build a better economic and environmental future for our region, but it’s important that we show respect and sensitivity for the people whose communities are impacted,” said Aaron Ruby with Dominion Energy. “Over the last four years, we’ve made several attempts to reach out to the tribal leadership to inform them about the project and help protect cultural and environmental resources.”
“Was it a post card? Was it a letter? We don’t know what kind of means they used,” Bass said. “We just thought there could have been a better effort to get ahold of someone.”
It was just recently tribal leadership has met with Dominion Energy, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), the Virginia State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO), and the Virginia Department of Historic Resources (VDHR), to voice their concerns according to the tribe’s Facebook post.
The tribe wants to be consulted when or if any historical artifacts are found in construction.
“What we want to make sure of that they do, is that they stop and come and let us know what they’ve got,” Bass said.
However as of this time, Dominion has not agreed to that specific plan.
“Over the last few weeks, we’ve met with the tribal leadership and heard some of their concerns about this archeological site. Since our meeting, we’ve provided all of the information we’ve gathered from our extensive surveys. We’ve invited them to observe the additional survey work that will be done to collect and preserve archeological resources at the site. We’ve also shared our procedures for carefully preserving any additional archeological resources we discover during the construction process.” –Aaron Ruby, Dominion Energy