Two Row Wampum Travels the Hudson

From the September 2013 PNL #827

by Andy Mager

The Two Row Wampum trek down the River Which Flows Both Ways (also called the Hudson) was a truly remarkable journey. It was the centerpiece of the year-long Two Row Wampum Renewal Campaign.

Following a daylong educational and cultural festival in Troy on July 27, the main leg of our journey began from Rensselaer the following morning. (On a first leg of the journey, Haudenosaunee paddlers travelled from Onondaga to Albany, preparing the way for the larger Two Row paddle.) Departing Rensselaer, the spirits of the paddlers and other participants remained strong despite ominous skies and heavy rain showers. Following words of support from Tadodaho Sid Hill, Onondaga Faithkeeper Oren Lyons and local political leaders, over 200 paddlers formed two rows—Haudenosaunee and other native paddlers to the west and non-native allies to the east—to begin our 13-day journey. Paddlers had come from near and far to demonstrate their solidarity, forming two nearly equal rows on the water.

 


Paddlers and Haudenosaunee leaders gather with the Dutch Consul General on Pier 96
in New York City on August 9. Photo: Andrew Courtney

 

An Adventure on the Water

Our trip was full of good spirit, community, education, singing, laughter, reflection, good food and adventure. We camped along the river most nights. Daily educational and cultural events drew small or large groups from nearby communities to learn about the Two Row and offer support. Our lead paddlers and safety boats kept everyone safe, and we kept to our schedule with only occasional modifications due to weather. When our presentation in Cold Spring was delayed by a downpour, Onondaga Clanmother Wendy Gonyea began her remarks by noting, “We are reminded who is really in charge, and it isn’t us.” 

As we paddled, camped and shared food together, a sense of connection and shared purpose deepened among the participants. People kept a sense of humor and consistently maintained the “Good Mind,” (a Haudenosaunee discipline of analyzing our thoughts before acting on them) despite the logistical challenges inevitable in such a voyage. Over 500 people joined us as paddlers or ground crew. A large enough group made the whole trip to maintain a sense of continuity while other people joined us for shorter periods of time. 

 

Compelling Imagery

Visitors were moved by the compelling image of our massive flotilla paddling down the river in two rows and by the powerful words of Haudenosaunee leaders and allies. At the events we read our Declaration of Intent, asking people to make an individual and collective commitment to observe the Two Row. Many hundreds signed on. (Find the Declaration at honorthetworow.org/declaration.)

On August 9, our flotilla of kayaks and canoes landed at Pier 96 in New York City, culminating our journey down the Hudson. A crowd of nearly 2,000 people cheered as the tired paddlers emerged from the water. Tadodaho Sid Hill offered a traditional Haudenosaunee Thanksgiving Address to the gathered throngs. The Dutch Consul General, Rob de Vos, renewed the 400-year- old friendship between the Dutch and the Haudenosaunee. Hickory Edwards proudly displayed the replica wampum belt which he had carried from the Central Fires of the Onondaga Nation.

 

Going International

A spirited group of 1,000 people marched across Manhattan to the United Nations, carrying a 40-foot Two Row flag through the streets of New York. The chant, “Honor the Treaties, Protect the Earth,” reverberated between the skyscrapers. Representatives of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues welcomed the Two Row and the Dakota Unity Riders, with whom we linked up at several points on our journey.

Later a large group entered the UN to attend its program marking the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. At that gathering, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon welcomed the paddlers saying, “Today, we highlight the importance of honoring treaties.” He and other UN officials noted the power of the Two Row journey, as did Onondaga Faithkeeper Oren Lyons: “The Two Row is the oldest and is the grandfather of all subsequent treaties. It set a relationship of equity and peace. This campaign is to remind people of the importance of the agreements.”

The following day, a Two Row Wampum Festival was held along the Hudson near Battery Park, featuring speakers, music, native crafts and more. The festival was a lovely close to a magnificent trek down this River we all share. As we emphasized throughout the journey, our arrival in New York City was both an end and a beginning. While we were delighted with the success of our effort and the way it moved both participants and observers, our campaign’s ambitious goals of peace, friendship and sustainability remain far from realized.

You can check out videos, lots of photos, more detailed reports and updates at honorthetworow.org, on Facebook and Twitter.

Andy, longtime Peace Council activist and former staffperson, is the project coordinator for the Two Row Wampum Renewal Campaign.

Close