The Covenant Chain in 1744
Written by Lindsay Speer
When Haudenosaunee speakers talk about the Two Row Wampum, an important part of the oral history is about the Covenant Chain of Peace and Friendship, which then shows up in most, if not all, of the diplomatic relations between the Haudenosaunee and the Dutch, French, English, and Americans afterward. They speak of three links- peace, friendship, forever. The chain is silver so that it will not rot or rust, and can be polished when it is tarnished. This is what we are talking about when we say we are “polishing the chain”.
A rather comprehensive list of the mentions of the Covenant Chain has been compiled by historian Robert Venables and can be found in four parts on our History page.
One example I would like to call attention to is the 1744 Treaty of Lancaster, which is frequently mentioned by many of the Onondaga Chiefs when discussing the history of the Two Row, as well as the influence of the Haudenosaunee form of government on the United States. Benjamin Franklin published the proceedings of this treaty. It is worth reading in its entirety, but here I wish to call attention to two pages in particular. They document part of the speech of Canassatego, an Onondaga Chief and famous orator on behalf of his people, in which he describes their relationship with the Dutch and the English after them.