Two Row Renewal event coming to the Grand River

This year marks the 400th anniversary of the Two Row Wampum Treaty struck between the Haudenosaunee and Dutch visitors in 1613. To commemorate that agreement and renew its intent, organizers from Syracuse, New York spent two years planning a 13 day event that took place through towns and villages along the Hudson River a few weeks ago.

On July 28th, Six Nations’ Eli Joseph and Linday Johnson, and Simcoe’s Jay Bailey left Troy, New York on the Hudson River by canoe and completed their trip 13 days later at Manhattan.

The event was also part of the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, first proclaimed by the United Nations 20 years ago.

A number of supporting events and teaching opportunities were directed towards non-Native residents in cities and towns along the way. It all culminated with a visit to the United Nations where a Two Row Flag and a Haudenosaunee Flag, autographed by the more than 400 participants, was given to Oren Lyons by Six Nations’ Jackie House. The flags were accepted and placed in the UN archives.

The event was both challenging and spiritually invigorating for all participants, spawning an idea which Joseph, Johnson, and Bailey hope will grow into a follow up event: Two Row Down the Grand River in the summer of 2015.

The trio know it will take two full years to plan such a project properly, even with help from the New York organizers of the Two Row Down the Hudson event, and working from its template.

The three met at the GREAT building last week and began preliminary planning efforts.

“These were just preliminary talks today,” said Bailey. “We met with Connie Jamieson from Six Nations Tourism and we were talking about who we need to contact and the kind of leadership we need. We have not gotten into logistics yet. That’s a big part of it. But we intend to paddle from the source to the mouth of the Grand River, educating communities along the way about the Two Row Wampum agreement and what it means to both Native and Non-Natives. It’s about honouring the Treaties and protecting the earth.”

The three were still on an emotional and spiritual high from their Hudson River adventure.

“I wouldn’t call it a celebration, we celebrate it every day,” said Eli Joseph. “It was more of an epic experience. It was a mind-changing and life-changing experience for us all. That’s why we want to continue this here, along the Grand River.”

To mirror the highly successful Hudson River trip, they want to include both the Dakota Unity Riders traveling the same route on land on horseback, and the same kind of well-organized teaching events which were so well-received and well-attended by curious non-Natives.

“The community support along the way was really amazing,” said Bailey. “There were communities that wanted to feed us, there were communities who came out to hear the teachings. There was a lot of positive non-Native feedback.”

If the goal was to educate, that mission was accomplished, and that is what excites Bailey, Joseph and Johnson most.

According to Joseph, the dream of the Two Row renewal trip was to do the initial one on the Hudson, then to springboard a similar event to other communities, where possible.

“The three of us are thinking, ‘why can’t we do something like this on the Grand River as a way of healing past hurts amongst our peoples and to help the environment?’” said Joseph. “The Grand River watershed is sick and we can bring awareness to that as well.”

The Hudson River organizers have already begun planning for another Two Row trip, this time down the Potomac River into Washington DC, and intend to carry the polishing of the covenant chain right to the White House.

“This is becoming a movement,” Joseph declares. “This was just the first wave, so to speak, and it will continue. There were a lot of positive feelings.”

This past Sunday, Johnson, Joseph and Bailey begun scouting out sections of the Grand River, looking for potential campsites large enough to accommodate hundreds, if not thousands, and possible riverside venues for teaching opportunities.

“We want to make sure that every day we have a stop along the way where there’s a significant community and where we can have that kind of teaching opportunity, as well as a place to camp,” says Bailey. “It took two years to plan the Hudson trip. We have to fundraise as well. There’s a lot to be done.”

“If we keep that good mind, I’m sure it will work out,” adds Johnson.

“It is very important that we connect spiritually, and with our environment. The two are so interconnected,” says Bailey.

“The good mind that Lindsay talks about had to prevail on that trip,” Joseph remarked. “Especially when you are living in such close proximity to other people.”

It was not an easy paddle either, according to Joseph.

“You really had to work and stay focused. It was an endurance test. It was very emotional as well,” she says. “We were all awakened that way.”

For more details as they become available, or to volunteer to help, go to their new site by searching “two row on the grand” on Facebook.

By Jim Windle

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