At the edge of Onondaga Nation Territory just south of Syracuse, New York, Hickory Edwards, Pete Edwards, and other Onondaga Nation men are hard at work putting the finishing touches on a dugout style canoe carved using only hand tools. As they work, a stream of excited onlookers stops to get a closer look and ask questions.
After 11 weeks of carving everyday, the tulip poplar log that was originally 15 feet long is now an approximately 13-foot dugout style canoe. It was taken on its first test run on June 21 at the Gibson Bridge on Onondaga Nation Territory.
As it was lowered into Onondaga Creek by a boom truck, Hickory and Pete sat in the canoe ready to paddle as a crowd watched and cheered.
But this canoe wasn’t carved for a paddle down Onondaga Creek, it was created for the Two Row Wampum Renewal Campaign’s symbolic enactment to honor the 400th anniversary of the Two Row Wampum Treaty. The events kick off July 2 with a festival at Willow Bay/Longbranch Park in Liverpool, New York.
The Guswenta, or Two Row Wampum was made by the Haudenosaunee in 1613 to record the first treaty forged in North America between Indigenous Peoples and settler nations. At the time, the Dutch and Haudenosaunee decided that since they would be travelling through the river of life together, they would do so as brothers, in friendship and peace.
The July 2 trip was planned as a reminder and affirmation that we will continue honoring our agreement, as long as the grass is green, the water runs downhill, the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, and Mother Earth still exists. In order to symbolize this relationship, the Onondaga Nation will be joined by members of all Six Nations, as well as grass roots organizers from Neighbors of the Onondaga Nation.
The trip will be divided into two parts, with the first half beginning July 2 from Onondaga Nation to Peebles Island in Waterford, New York on July 14. The second half of the trip is the main voyage and will begin in Troy, New York on July 28 and end at Pier 96 in New York City on August 9 in time for the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples at the United Nations.
All together the trip will be roughly 380 miles. A replica of the Two Row Wampum will be carried by representatives of the Six Nations in the dugout canoe from Onondaga Nation to New York City.
There are currently 240 people signed up to make the trip, and the Onondaga Canoe and Kayak Club have been holding training and safety courses to make sure everyone participating is ready.
For more information on the Two Row Wampum Renewal Campaign, visit HonorTheTwoRow.org.