Two Row Wampum Renewal Campaign Ends Journey, Message Lives On
Tadadaho Sid Hill welcomes paddlers, volunteers, and supporters to NYC with the Opening Address.
By Tekonwakwenni Nanticoke
The Two Row Wampum belt, or treaty, symbolizes the agreement made between the Haudenosaunee and the Dutch government in 1613. The belt has 13 rows of wampum; 9 white rows grouped by 3 representing friendship, peace, and forever, and 2 purple rows running parallel that represent our canoe and the Dutch ship. The agreement made was that both the canoe and ship will travel down the river of life side by side and that neither the Haudenosaunee nor the Dutch should attempt to steer one another’s vessel.
On July 2, several Haudenosaunee paddlers began the historic journey that started in Onondaga Creek, a major tributary of Onondaga Lake. Ally paddlers then met them as they made their way across Onondaga Lake. After battling choppy waters from high winds, paddlers were comforted by familiar faces on the north shore, as hundreds of people were ecstatic to see the Two Row Wampum Campaign brought to life.
They then traveled up the Seneca River and west towards Oneida Lake. By way of the Mohawk River they made their way to Troy, NY. They stopped in communities along the river to rest during the nights, one of them being Kanatsioharè:ke.
Music, stories, and cultures were shared among these many stops that were made. Socials were held on some nights, cultural teaching on others. There was even a night that had a lacrosse stick maker from Onondaga teaching about the game that we, as Haudenosaunee, know as the Little Brother of War.
When the canoes reached Troy, a festival was held to celebrate the safe arrival of the paddlers, but also to connect with the Dutch allies and launch into the Hudson River.
Speakers and performers from all over Haudenosaunee country were on hand during the Two Row Wampum Renewal Send-Off Celebration Festival. Tom Porter and Oren Lyons were there to meet with Dutch delegates and government officials of Troy. The Mayor of Troy and Congressman Paul Tonko spoke of the importance that the people from the ship need to live up to what they had agreed to 400 years ago.
Pura Fe, a Tuscarora singer, shared her own songs and songs that she sang with Ulali. Rick Hill, also Tuscarora, gave a detailed lesson on the history of the Two Row Wampum. Singers and dancers from Cattaraugus demonstrated a few social dances including Tsionahthonwisen’neha (New Women’s Shuffle) and Wata’tsheroten (Standing Quiver/Stomp Dance.) Kontiwennenhawi- Akwesasne Women Singers were also asked to share songs by one of the organizers, Lori Quigley.
Dutch language was also shared through song as a duo performed upbeat songs. Many Dutch artisans and vendors were also on the grounds to show and teach about their native crafts.
The festival also saw the arrival of the Dakota Unity Riders. The Unity Riders travelled, on horseback, from Manitoba not only to join the historic journey, but to also bring awareness of the events that are happening in Manitoba. They wanted to join to raise awareness of the importance of protecting the environment, as we are seeing a lot of injustices being carried out.
There were many obstacles that paddlers and organizers had to overcome in order to complete this momentous journey. During the trip, nature showed support by bringing fresh rain, which would cause delays and would test the paddlers. At one point in their voyage, paddlers had to carry their canoes and kayaks around one part of the river due to flooding. But all was fine as paddlers made it safe and sound to Pier 96 in New York City.
As the paddlers travelled, more and more canoe and kayaks joined the journey. Many times during the journey, paddlers formed two rows; one row of Haudenosaunee paddlers and the other Dutch and other non-natives.
When they reached NYC, paddlers and supporters marched from Pier 96 on the Hudson River and made their way to the United Nations Headquarters where Oren Lyons, Sid Hill and other Haudenosaunee leaders addressed the UN. The day they arrived also happened to be the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples.
After everything was said at the UN, a gathering was held at the American Indian Community House. The American Indian Community House, or AICH, is located just south of Central Park. It was established in 1969 to improve and promote the well being of the Onkwehonwe community and increase the visibility of Onkwehonwe cultures in an urban environment. It was here that Kevin Tarrant, Festival Managing Director, along with his drum group, the Silver Cloud Singers, welcomed paddlers and volunteers. The gathering lasted about two hours as people who made the journey were preparing for the final day.
The NYC Two Row Wampum Festival took place at the Brookfield Place Waterfront Plaza near the One World Trade Center. The plaza proved to be the ideal place as it was part of the main route that many runners and cyclists used. Artisans and craft vendors lined up on each side of the path, while the stage overlooked the waterfront.
The line up for the event included Pure Fe, the Haudenosaunee Singers and Dancers, Josephine Tarrant, Kontiwennenhawi- Akwesasne Women Singers, Silver Cloud Singers and speeches from Tadadaho Sid Hill, Oren Lyons, Jake Edwards, and Hickory Edwards. Daygot Leeyos, from Oneida, shared her original poems and music. The day ended with a social put on by the Haudenosaunee Singers and Dancers. Charlie Hill, a comedian from Oneida, Wisconsin, was the MC for the event.
Oren Lyons speaks about the Two Row Wampum.
At the beginning of the journey, Hickory Edwards of Onondaga, collected spring water close to where they launched at Onondaga Creek with the intent of mixing it with the water from the Hudson River. He would then bring the water to the Atlantic Ocean, where it would be emptied. He also brought with him a replica of the Two Row Wampum. Both the water and wampum belt travelled some 200 miles to get the message across that we need to start taking better care of our first Mother.
The journey was started with the intent to raise awareness and knowledge of an agreement made between the Haudenosaunee and the Dutch government. Now more than ever, we must gather the strength and the right mind to protect our waters, our trees and grasses so that the 7 generations coming will have a place healthy place to live.