400 years ago, in 1613. Dutch colonists entered into the very first treaty between European settlers and the Haudenosaunee, the people of the longhouse, the members of the Iroquois Confederacy. The treaty was embodied in the Two Row Wampum, in which one row symbolized the Dutch colonists, and the other row represented the Hadenosaunee. The agreement was for the two people to live in peaceful parallel, not in conflict, “as long as the grass is green, as long as the rivers flow downhill and as long as the sun rises in the east and sets in the west”.
At the end of last week, leaders from the Onondaga and Mohawk nations engaged in a peaceful protest to assert their continued sovereignty, crossing a bridge over the river that separates New York State from Ontario, the United States from Canada. The Haudenosaunee marching across the bridge were advocating for a different sort of nationality, one that doesn’t match the clear clean lines that we see on a globe or road atlas.
The protest was organized with the help of Honor The Two Row. Honor The Two Row is dedicated to the application of the Two Row Wampum treaty in our own time, but not just from the Haudenosaunee perspective. Honor The Two Row is a two row organization, with both Native American and European American membership coming together in a common vision of peace and cooperation.
A few days from now, members of Honor The Two Row will begin a three-day journey, by canoe and on foot, to mark the 400th anniversary of the Two Row Wampum. The journey will travel from the southern end of Cayuga Lake to the lake’s northern end.
Later this summer, a canoe flotilla will travel down the Mohawk River, and from there to New York City, to participate in commemorative events at the United Nations on the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. They’re calling it the Epic Canoe Trip. “We aim to educate and inspire attendees to transform their relationship to the river and all parts of the natural world, incorporating a sense of historic responsibility for the environment and justice for the original inhabitants of this land,” Honor The Tow Row explains.