The Two Row Wampum Renewal Campaign, organized by the community group Neighbors of the Onondaga Nation (based in Syracuse) and the Onondaga Nation, is a forward looking educational campaign. Unfortunately, the Associated Press article about the Two Row Wampum Treaty printed in the OBSERVER (Jan. 2) adds as much confusion as light to this important initiative.
The article highlights the perspectives of two academics who claim the treaty is "fraudulent." These men have been waging a "counter-campaign" against our effort since last spring. However, the specific document they dispute, the Van Loon "Treaty of Tawagonshi," plays no role in our campaign. Our project is based on the Haudenosaunee oral tradition which describes an agreement of peace and friendship forever. The Two Row articulates an inspiring vision of very different peoples sharing the same land, traveling down the river of life together in parallel, respecting one another's differences and agreeing to respect the natural world on which all life depends.
Haudenosaunee references to the Two Row stretch far back in history. The written record of treaty negotiations and discussions from the mid/late 1600s onwards regularly refers to the "Covenant Chain of Treaties" of which the Two Row is seen as the start.
No one disputes the fact that the Dutch were in the Hudson Valley before 1613. The following year they established a settlement at Fort Nassau, near modern Albany. It is very difficult to imagine that they could have done so successfully without negotiations with the Mohawks, the keepers of the Eastern Door of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy.
Our campaign seeks to educate people throughout New York State and beyond about the 400th anniversary of this important agreement, which served as the basis for negotiations and treaties which followed between the Haudenosaunee and the French, English and United States. In collaboration with over 60 co-sponsoring educational institutions, community organizations and faith communities we will hold educational events throughout the state.
A centerpiece of the campaign is a "symbolic enactment" of the concept central to the Two Row in which Haudenosaunee and other native people will paddle side-by-side with allies and supporters down the Hudson River from Albany to New York City over 13 days next summer. We will hold educational and cultural events all along the way.
In doing so, we raise the question of what this treaty means today as we work to create a more just and sustainable community and world.
Full details about the campaign are available at: honorthetworow.org.
Andy Mager is Two Row Wampum project coordinator in Syracuse.