Polishing the Covenant Chain in the Hudson Valley and Beyond
The Two Row Wampum Renewal Campaign’s 2012 Trial Run
July 31st to August 3rd | Saugerties to Fort Montgomery New York
by Aya Yamamoto
As members of the Two Row Wampum Renewal Campaign’s 2012 Trial Run set off down the Hudson River on July 31st, solidarity was in the air—solidarity not just among the people but also for the River. The sweat that fell into the water under the August sun as we paddled 53 miles from Saugerties to Popolopen Creek bore our pledge to each other and to the land.
Organizers, including citizens of several Haudenosaunee Nations and allies from Neighbors of the Onondaga Nation (NOON), have been working for over a year organizing a state-wide educational campaign about the Two Row Wampum, to begin in 2013. The 2012 Trial Run was in preparation for the focal event of next year’s campaign. The formation of the Two Row Wampum Renewal Campaign was prompted largely by the Federal Court’s dismissal of the Onondaga Land Rights Action. The campaign seeks to build a grassroots movement toward justice for the Haudenosaunee and for the natural world. The upcoming 400th anniversary of the Two Row Wampum—the first agreement made between the Haudenosaunee and Europeans in 1613—offers just such an opportunity.
From July 28 to August 10 2013 the campaign will symbolically enact the Two Row, with Haudenosaunee people and allies paddling side-by side down the Hudson River holding educational and cultural events along the way. Several paddlers from Onondaga will set out earlier, from Onondaga Creek to Onondaga Lake and Oneida Lake, then to the Mohawk River, Kanatsiohareke Mohawk Community, and Cohoes Fall before joining the Hudson. The enactment will end with closing events in New York City, linking the Two Row with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
The campaign is designed to motivate people of New York State and the world to uphold the tenets of the Two Row Wampum, including indigenous sovereignty and environmental stewardship, and to change the way the federal and state governments relate to the Haudenosaunee and other indigenous nations. Its aim is to begin a retrieval of the responsibilities that have been dropped by the wayside, so that we may all move forward together towards a sustainable future. From July 31st to August 3rd 2012, representatives from NOON as well as the Onondaga, Mohawk, Seneca, and Oneida Nations conducted a trial run for this historic journey down the Hudson. With the leadership of Hickory Edwards, three to four canoes and two kayaks were on the River. Poody Edwards and Allison Smith led the on-shore support crew. Jake Edwards of the Onondaga Nation Council of Chiefs joined us as well.
As we paddled from Saugerties to Kingston, Poughkeepsie, Beacon, and finally Popolopen Creek near Bear Mountain State Park, it was clear we were not alone. A handful of photographers joined us on and off the water, donating time and energy to help us capture and share what we were learning. Jeremy Schaller came up from New York City to travel with us, offering his photography and videography skills, witticisms, coffee, and homemade pickles. Though we were hard to reach at times (answering a cell phone that is locked inside a waterproof box while paddling into the wind is not easy), Andrew Courtney still managed to kayak out to meet us on the water, toting his camera as well as interested community members that may be helpful to us. Supporters welcomed us at our docking points, prepared meals for us, or paddled out to greet us on the River. Sally and Paul Bermanzohn showed incredible generosity, organizing barbeque dinners at Kingston and Poughkeepsie, offering up their backyard for camping, letting us use their shower, and preparing a breakfast that would fuel all 20 of us.
In Poughkeepsie, we met with representatives from the Mid-Hudson Children’s Museum, Dutchess County Tourism Bureau, Office of the Mayor, Chamber of Commerce, and Hudson River Sloop Clearwater. Each organization offered ideas for how they could support our efforts. The Clearwater representative mentioned that many young lacrosse players in the area would be especially thrilled to honor the Haudenosaunee after seeing Crooked Arrows, and suggested that a lacrosse game or clinic be organized as one of the campaign’s mid-Hudson events.
The support we received all along the way strengthened our steps and fueled our determination. It told us that there are people who are ready for change—ready to hear the truth, ready to heal their relations with the Earth and with each other, ready to look towards the seventh generation, ready for redress and ready for justice; they are ready to polish the covenant chain that has been tarnished for far too long. As we paddled down the River, our avian neighbors lightened our hearts as well: we saw bald eagles fishing, herons, and egrets, all of whom have returned to the Hudson after decades of absence.
However we also saw factories, garbage washed up on the banks, and rusted iron carcasses of the industrial era. These told us that we must leave this place better than we found it. We must leave the waters cleaner, the animals healthier, and the people more informed, conscientious, and appreciative of Nature’s gifts than we found them. It is time for residents of New York State, America, and the world to take up our duties as neighbors, as friends, as parents, as stewards of the land, and as human beings; each nation in its own way. It is time to give thanks and to give back.
The Two Row Wampum Renewal Campaign already involves dozens of Haudenosaunee people and allies, but we need lots more help to pull off this ambitious effort. We welcome your support and feedback! To learn more, get involved, or donate visit www.honorthetworow.org, sign up for the email list on our website, “Like” the Two Row Wampum Renewal Campaign on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, or contact us.