About 200 canoe and kayak paddlers gathered at Stony Point Center Aug. 5 as part of a yearlong educational campaign about the first treaty signed by the Dutch settlers and Haudenosaunee (Iroquois Confederacy) tribes in 1613.
The Native American paddlers and their non-native allies were participating in a historical re-enactment honoring the 400th anniversary of the Two Row Wampum Treaty. The spent nearly two weeks paddling 140 miles down the Hudson River from Albany to New York City as part of an effort to honor the treaties and protect the earth. The Two Row Wampum Treaty belt is still in the possession of the Onondaga tribe.
Stony Point Co-Director Rick Ufford-Chase welcomed the group at a special sunset dinner and explained Stony Point had wanted to be part of the Two Row Wampum trip since first hearing about it a year earlier.
Planned as an intercultural peace event, the dinner was held at 8:06 p.m., making it an iftar — a breaking of the fast during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
Chaplain Rabia Terri Harris of the Muslim Peace Fellowship and a resident at Stony Point, together with the Islamic Center of Rockland and Stony Point kitchen manager Donna Costa, coordinated the meal. It began with a traditional call to prayer in Arabic led by Meherban Syed of the Islamic Center and a table grace. A closing Muslim prayer was led by Azim Farooki of Rockland’s Islamic Center.
From the Two Row Wampum Campaign, Cayuga Chief Sam George of the Haudenosaunee tribes and Two Row organizer Dan Hill thanked Stony Point Center and the Muslim group for the hospitality and spoke about the Two Row Wampum Renewal Campaign.
Stony Point Center provided space on its grounds for the paddlers and ground crew to set up camp in their tents and also offered rooms to those who wanted to stay indoors after more than a week on the Hudson River. A full breakfast was provided the next morning in the morning. Andy Mager, an organizer from Syracuse, and several native leaders again led the large group in thanking Stony Point Center for its hospitality.
Representatives from all six Haudenosaunee nations (Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, Seneca and Tuscarora) are participating in the epic river trip, as are people from 20 other Native nations in the United States and Canada and non-native allies from across the United States.
The Rev. Janet Adair Hansen, moderator of the Public Policy Advocacy Network for the Synod of the Northeast, paddled for two days coming to and leaving Stony Point. The Presbyterian Synod of the Northeast Council endorsed the Two Row Wampum Renewal Campaign and contributed to the trip.
“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. “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 … It set a relationship of equity and peace.”
Jake Edwards of the Onondaga Nation Council of Chiefs explained, “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.”
While the original treaty was written on paper in Dutch, the Haudenosaunee made a wampum belt that has two equal and parallel rows of purple beads, representing the two peoples. Tradition says one row was a sailboat, representing European culture, tradition and government, and the other was a canoe, representing Native American culture, tradition and government. Between the two purple rows are three white rows of beads, representing peace, friendship and forever. The rallying cry of the two rows of paddlers is “Honor the treaties!” Protect the earth!”