ABORIGINAL JUSTICE: Two Row Wampum Renewal Campaign begins

14 February 2013
ABORIGINAL JUSTICE: Two Row Wampum Renewal Campaign begins

by Chris Sabas

Approximately five hundred people filled a venue in Syracuse, New York, Haudenosaunee territory, to witness the launch of the highly anticipated Two Row Wampum Renewal Campaign, among them CPTers Hannah Redekop and Chris Sabas.

 Crowd applauds after presentation of twenty-five projects carried
out in the spirit of the 1613 Two-Row Wampum agreement
between the Haudenausonee nations and European settlers.

The diverse crowd of Haudenosaunee, as well as other indigenous and non-indigenous, listened to a traditional Haudenosaunee Thanksgiving Address delivered by Tadodaho Sid Hill; watched a presentation of approximately twenty-five projects that work in the spirit of the Two Row, culminating in a standing ovation; saw an empowering presentation of history by Onondaga Chief Jake Edwards, featuring three replica wampum belts; and took in a multimedia presentation about the campaign.

Chief Edwards recited an abridged version of the Great Law of Peace, which is the foundation for the Two Row Wampum, derived from Haudenosaunee oral tradition.  Oral teachings are "constantly speaking to our bodies, hearts and minds," said Edwards. 

He showed the audience the 'Unity Belt,' also known as the 'Confederacy Belt,' which has now become the well known Haudenosaunee flag.  At one time, no flag existed, because "we know who we are." Edwards went on to explain that when the Haudensaunee lacrosse team began to compete internationally, they would present the Unity Belt, citing that "this is our recognition," which came from the Great Law of Peace.  "Every row, every bead has explanations to itā€¦ protocols, procedures, ceremony, [and] a decision making process for the council of chiefs [to follow]."

Eventually, it became clear that the "newcomers" in the East "were not going home." Edwards explained that his people agreed to share "their house," the forest.  Based upon the Great Law of Peace, each would be respectful of everything before and around, to only take from Mother Earth that which is needed to survive.  The Two Row Wampum represents the understanding that the two were to live side by side, along the River of Life, and to not interfere with each otherā€™s ways, cultures, songs, ceremonies nor to pass laws onto each other.  Edwards described the Two Row as an agreement in "trade, peace, [and] friendship forever."

As violations and encroachments onto Haudensaunee territory intensified, Edwards explained, his people reminded their "brothers" of their Covenant Chain of Friendship, initiated when ships first arrived.  The Mohawk greeted the first arrivals and shared food, teachings and their ways.  So that the relationship would not rust or fall apart, the Chain was described as one of silver, not steel, because silver "can be easily polished."  This explains why the Haudenosaunee and their allies are "polishing" the covenant chain of friendship via the renewal campaign.

Organizers emphasize the campaign is not just about the past; but the present and the future. Article 6, Clause 2 to the U.S. Constitution states that all treaties are considered "Supreme law of the land." Yet oral traditions are not honored under the Doctrine of Discovery.  Future team releases will touch on the doctrine and the Two Row campaign.