- Guswenta - The Two Row Wampum Belt
In 1613, the Mohawks had noticed people coming into the territory unannounced.
They began to cut trees and clear land for their homes and farms. They
had entered the lands of the Haudenosaunee and were now occupying some
of our empty rooms (land). They dressed oddly and had hair on their
faces. They had iron pots and pans and had their families with them.
These people need a place to live. The Mohawks sent a runner to Onondaga
to convey a meeting of the Haudenosaunee.
At the meeting it was discussed
that a delegation must travel to where these people have settled to
determine their intentions. It was difficult for the delegation. The
people they met spoke in a language they haven't heard before. It took
much time and patience for the two people to begin to communicate.
After many discussions, we decided that we must have a way to greet
each other when we meet. The settlers with their large sailed boat thought
that they should be called "father" and the Haudenosaunee "son." The
Haudenosaunee said that this would not do. We shall address each other
as "Brothers". This relationship shows that we are equal to
As we discovered much about each other, there was an agreement
made of how were to treat and live together. Each of our ways will be shown in the purple rows running the length of the belt. In one row is a ship with our White Brothers ways, in the other a canoe with our ways. Each will travel down the river of life side by side. Neither will attempt to steer the other's vessel.
We agreed on three on three elements to make this treaty last .
The first agreement was friendship; the Haudenosaunee and our white brothers
will live in friendship. The second principle is peace; there will be
peace between our two people. The final principle is forever; that this
agreement will last forever.
The Dutch recorded this agreement in paper
and with three silver chains. Iron chains would not do because iron rusts
and breaks over time. Silver can be polished and renewed when we meet.
We agreed to call this the Silver Covenant Chain of Friendship.
told the Dutch that we do not use paper to record our history. We use
make belts made of white and purple wampum shells. That we have made
a belt to record this agreement. The belt is two purple rows running
along side each other representing two boats. In one, is the canoe with
our way of life, laws and people. In the other is your ship with your
laws, religion, and people in it. Our boats will travel side by side
down the river of life. That each will respect the ways of each other
and will not interfere with the other. That together we will travel in
Friendship, Peace, Forever as long as the grass is green, as long as
the water runs downhill, as long as the sun rises in the east and sets
in the west and as long as our Mother Earth will last.
Importance to today
The Haudenosaunee see this as a living treaty as a way that we have established a way for our people to live together in peace; that each nation will respect the ways of the other as we meet to discuss solutions to our issues that come before us.