Highway marker for The Hand Site unveiled

Published 9:58 am Wednesday, November 9, 2011


A highway marker for The Hand Site is unveiled along General Thomas Highway. -- Kate Archer | TIdewater News

FRANKLIN—The Virginia Department of Historic Resources in Richmond recently unveiled a highway marker for The Hand Site village of the Cheroenhaka (Nottoway) Indians.

Located at General Thomas Highway and Handsom Road between Franklin and Newsoms, the marker designates a known village where native tribes lived, traded goods, harvested crops and buried loved ones.

“It feels like our forefathers are looking down on us today,” said Teresa Preston with the Archeological Society of Virginia’s Nansemond Chapter. “We started this marker project for The Hand Site in 2009, and today, we have seen it come to fruition.”

“History must be used to inform our present,” added Cheroenhaka Chief Walt “Red Hawk” Brown. “To recognize our past is recognizing who we are in the future.”

The ceremony included the ancient purification “smudging” ceremony, drum playing, singing and the traditional passing of the pipe by Indians in native dress.

For three years during the 1960s, the late Russell Darden, Lina Harcum and other local volunteers worked under Gerald Smith with a team of archaeologists, surveying and excavating The Hand Site. Among shards of pottery and carved stones were 131 skeletal remains of ancient Indians, now archived in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.

Frances Darden, widow of Russell Darden, said the site was first brought to her husband’s attention around 1962.

“We had only been here about one year, and it was our first introduction to Southampton County,” Frances Darden said. “It really made me feel good that (a) marker finally got put up where that village was. It is a very important site to this area.”

The Cheroenhaka (Nottoway) Indian Tribe and the Cheroenhaka (Nottoway) Indian Tribal Heritage Foundation committed $1,000 toward the highway marker, and the Archaeological Society of Virginia Nansemond Chapter and A.S.V. HQ gave $500.

Members of the Cheroenhaka (Nottoway) Indian Tribe plan to have their ancestors’ remains reburied in Southampton County. Cattashowrock Town lies on 100 acres of Tribal Land off Old Bridge Road in Courtland and is being slated for a Cheroenhaka (Nottoway) Indian Museum.