1613 – The Two Row Wampum Treaty, also known as Guswhentaor Kaswehnta, is an agreementmade between representatives of the Five Nations of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois)and representatives of the Dutch government in 1613 in what is now upstate NewYork. The pattern of the belt consists of two rows of purple wampum beads against abackground of white beads. The purple beads signify the courses of two vessels—aHaudenosaunee canoe and a European ship—traveling down the river of life together,parallel but never touching. The three white stripes denote peace and friendship. Thiswampum records the meaning of the agreement, which declared peaceful coexistencebetween the Haudenosaunee and Dutch settlers in the area. The Two-Row (common symbol: Two paths – One journey) is often cited as an understanding based on mutual co-existence, respect and non-interference in each others’ internal affairs.”
“When the Haudenosaunee first came into contact with the European nations, treaties of peace and friendship were made. Each wassymbolized by the Gus-Wen-Tah or Two Row Wampum. There is a bed of white wampum which symbolizes the purity of the agreement.There are two rows of purple, and those two rows have the spirit of your ancestors and mine. There are three beads of wampum separatingthe two rows and they symbolize peace, friendship and respect.These two rows will symbolize two paths or two vessels, travelling down the same river together. One, a birch bark canoe, will be for theIndian people, their laws, their customs and their ways. The other, a ship, will be for the white people and their laws, their customs and theirways. We shall each travel the river together, side by side, but in our own boat. Neither of us will try to steer the other’s vessel.Thus, in the “two-row” wampum there are two parallel paths. In one path travels the aboriginal canoe. In the other path travels theEuropean ship. The two vessels co-exist but they never touch. Each is the sovereign of its own destiny.”(Described in the Haudenosaunee presentation to the Parliamentary Special Committee on Indian Self-Government in 1983)
Another symbol is the Iron Covenant Chain. An “iron chain” was substituted for a rope which first was cited as a metaphor for the relationship between the Iroquois and Britain “your ship tied to our lands.” That is, the substitution of iron from rope was symbolic of the friendship growing stronger.
When asked about the half-breed, “when the storms come, they (Metis) have to choose where they want to be.” Be it the land or the boat. Later, a Silver Covenant Chain was substituted for the Iron Chain, an even stronger and longer lasting friendship, since silver doesn’t rust. The chain was, however, to be “polished” when blemished”, meaning when problems arose between the parties, the friendship should be cleaned and renewed. The Chain was a metaphor for mutual friendship and protection. The nature of the Covenant Chain is that of a compact, political union in which the participating Nations are like links of a chain. Each link retains its identity, as each Nation continues to conduct its internal affairs. The purpose of the making of the Chain, as of any compact between Nations, is to create the strength and protection that flow from unity in a common purpose.