Wampum to follow

An Editorial by Jonathan Garlow

In centuries and millennium past, our people developed a system of honour and an international agreement of the sacred. It was put into chiseled Quahog shells more commonly known as wampum.

Sadly, pseudo-history has told us that wampum was the indigenous form of currency but nothing could be further from the truth. Wampum was first formed in grief stricken tears by Ayonwatha and the Peacemaker. The title passes along from generation to generation down unto our Ayonwatha, Chief Joseph Sky of the Mohawk Nation, Turtle Clan, who passed away just over a year ago. The year of greiving is complete.

Today, our communities will send wampum to each other when there is an emergency and we need help. It reminds us of our commitments.

At Kanonhstaton back in 2006, many other nations and communities sent help to Six Nations in many different forms. There was no need to convince our brothers, sisters, uncles and cousins of our moral obligation to protect the land and honour our children. But even still today when runners arrive with that sacred wampum it becomes official, it can become emotional, and it is always solemn.

Those who have honoured that ancient call know how it awakens the spirit like a burning fire.

In 2006 they poured into Six from Akwesasne, Oneida of the Thames, Kahnawake, Kanehsatake, N.Y. State, British Columbia and abroad – some with wampum, others without, all accepted as family.

Now south, at the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in North Dakota, history is repeating itself in an even grander way with new experiences and relationships forming as hundreds of nations gather as we once did regularly, centuries ago.

Official delegations are being planned by the Haudenosaunee but our Facebook feeds are currently blowing up because our own friends and family are filtering through the border and arriving there day by day.

It isn’t illegal for us to go and stand with our political cousins at Standing Rock. You can just get into a vehicle and go. Many have, thousands in fact.

Although we all use gas to drive our vehicles, we aren’t hypocrites just because we demand that the colonial powers find a cleaner way to produce fossil fuels. They can go home to Europe or Asia if they destroy these rivers and lands but Gohon:weh/’Nish/Nehiyaw people like us have nowhere else to go.  This has always been our home and it always will be.

Many ceremonies and spiritual visioning sessions are taking place and our people are like nourishment for one another, salve for the wounds and ointment for the old bones. Discussing the current state of indigenous politics is also like ceremony – of vital importance.

Buffalo are being skinned and butchered, teepee’s are going up all around and everyone is together again in that old way. Hollywood Indians are no doubt scattered amongst the front line activists and everyone has a story.

An international forum has begun – wampum to follow.

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1 Comment

  1. i have read some very good explanations of the idea of two row wampum but can’t seem to find anything that is clear enough to a friend of mine. She seems to think it sounds like a policy of “separate but equal” which has a very negative connotation. Can you explain what two-row wampum is in your magazine?

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