Over 200 Native and Non-Native Paddle Down Hudson River Together

This group is doing an awesome thing and we're excited to be their hosts the night of August 5th!

Hudson River, NY— It has been 400 years since the first treaty was signed between the first European (Dutch) settlers and the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois Confederacy), an agreement that formed the basis of all later treaties with the English and the United States. The Haudenosaunee are still here, and this year, peoples from all around the world are joining them to honor and renew this inspiring treaty of peace and friendship.
On July 28th, over 200 Native and non-Native paddlers launch near Albany to paddle over 140 miles to NYC side-by-side in two lines to honor and bring to life the imagery of the Two Row Wampum, the beaded record of this treaty. Full itinerary and events along the way available at www.honorthetworow.org. They land at Pier 96 in NYC at approximately 10 AM on August 9th to walk to the United Nations in honor of the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. They will be greeted by the Dutch Consul General, other non-Native dignitaries, representatives of Native nations, and many supporters.

People from all six Haudenosaunee nations (Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, Seneca, and Tuscarora) are participating in the journey, as well as people from 20 other Native nations and people from across NY State and beyond. Over 85 organizations have co-sponsored the campaign. The honorary advisory committee includes Pete Seeger, Bill McKibben of 350.org, Jane Goodall, Oren Lyons (Onondaga), Tonya Gonnella Frischner (Onondaga), Rick Hill (Tuscarora), Joanna Macy, Onondaga County Executive Joanne Mahoney, Leonard Peltier, Tom Porter (Mohawk), Syracuse University Chancellor Nancy Cantor, and Suzan Shown Harjo (Cheyenne & Hodulgee Muscogee), an original plaintiff in the Washington Redskins case.

“Each line of the wampum belt represents each of our laws, governments, languages, cultures, our ways of life,” Jake Edwards of the Onondaga Nation Council of Chiefs explains. “It is agreed that we will travel together, side by each, on the river of life… linked by peace, friendship, forever. We will not try to steer each others’ vessels.”
“The Two Row is the oldest and is the grandfather of all subsequent treaties,” said Oren Lyons, Faithkeeper of the Onondaga Nation’s Turtle Clan who has represented the Haudenosaunee in world councils at the United Nations and elsewhere. “The words ‘as long as the sun shines, as long as the waters flow downhill, and as long as the grass grows green’ can be found in many treaties after the 1613 treaty,” Lyons said. “It set a relationship of equity and peace. This campaign is to remind people of the importance of the agreements.”

The Two Row Wampum Renewal Campaign was first suggested by organizers of a non-Native ally group known as Neighbors of the Onondaga Nation (NOON) in 2011, who learned the history and meaning of the Two Row Wampum, and felt a responsibility to share this information. Americans have largely forgotten the importance of treaties, even though Article 6 of the U.S. Constitution states that treaties are the supreme law of the land. In the 1794 Treaty of Canandaigua, George Washington promised protection for Haudenosaunee territories. This act of paddling together is a recognition of the troubled past, and renewal for the future.

“Understanding and honoring the Two Row Wampum can improve relations between our peoples,” explains Andy Mager, the Project Coordinator for the campaign and a member of Neighbors of the Onondaga Nation, “and remind us of our responsibilities to the Earth which we all share. We need this more than ever.”
Protection for the environment is at the heart of this campaign. The Haudenosaunee work closely with their neighbors to protect the environment, as evidenced by their work to address Superfund sites at Onondaga Lake and along the St. Lawrence River, and the strong stance they have taken against hydrofracking, the extreme energy method of extracting methane gas from shale. A similar increasingly urgent message of peace and healing for all living beings is being made by Indigenous peoples across North America, including the Dakota Unity Riders from Manitoba, Canada, who will parallel the paddlers on horseback.

“An important aspect of this agreement was that we live in the river of life and we all need to take care of it,” Freida Jacques, Clanmother of the Turtle Clan of the Onondaga Nation reminds us. “The environment was a part of this agreement.” As climate change inflicts severe flooding and storms, drought and melting ice caps, the lessons of the Two Row Wampum agreement are particularly timely.

“Our ancestors made this great agreement on our behalf 400 years ago,” notes Hickory Edwards, the lead paddler for the Onondaga Nation. “Now is the time for us to think about the people living in the next 400 years.”

For more information about this group, visit their website.