Wampum belt unveiled at London council meeting

LONDON, ON – This cherished and respected gift will serve as a reminder to all of the deep and abiding friendship and of the mutual duty to respect the lasting principles of the pledge made long ago.

“I was honoured and touched to receive this Wampum Belt as a gesture of our ongoing commitment to strengthening and enriching the relationship between the City and our First Nations partners,” said Mayor Matt Brown. “The Belt will be prominently displayed in my office as a reminder of the importance of working together more closely as we move forward.”

“In the spirit of gift giving protocol, today marks a historic first step towards moving forward in developing meaningful relationships between the City of London and Chippewas of the Thames First Nation. We see this as an opportunity to learn more about our shared history here at the forks of the Thames and chart a path forward where we work together on issues and opportunities of mutual interest in a way that the Two Row Wampum speaks of, that is friendship, respect and peace,” said Chief Leslee White-Eye of the Chippewas of the Thames First Nation.

The belt is fashioned with two rows of purple wampum (traditional shell beads) alternating with three rows of white. The white wampum represent peace, friendship and respect while the purple ones depict the paths of two vessels traveling together on the river of life.

One vessel, a birch bark canoe, is for the Indigenous people and their customs and laws and the other, a sailing ship, is for the European settlers and their customs and laws. The pact promised that each would travel the river together but in separate boats, parallel but never touching, pledging that “neither of us will try to steer the other’s vessel.”

That the ends remain unfinished is representative of the fact that the stories of both peoples have both a long history and a future that is still being written. Their stories intertwine like the tassels of the belt and like the waters of the river. They will continue on down this river together in peace and friendship as long as the grass is green, the water flows, and the sun rises in the east.

Later in the meeting, Council will vote on a number of actions to be taken with respect to the municipal implications of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. As first steps, the City has committed to providing intercultural competency training for all employees. Civic Administration, in partnership with the London Public Library, will also be working to identify and collect copies of records related to the residential school system to be provided to the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation. As well, the City’s Culture Office will work with London Arts Council and local First Nations communities to develop a prominent memorial in London acknowledging the history of Canada’s residential school system and its former students.

The Mayor, as Head of Council, is also seeking direction from Council tonight to further our work in strengthening relationships with local First Nations.

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