November 15, 2012

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Onondaga chief discusses 400-year wampum treaty

NEW PALTZ – A national leader came to New Paltz Wednesday night, but there were no motorcades, no roadblocks, and no secret service.

The speaker was Chief Jake Edwards of the Onondaga Nation Indian Tribe.

The message he brought was encoded four centuries ago into a belt of wampum beads, representing the first treaty between Iroquois and white
peoples dated 1613.

Edwards spoke for over an hour about the Great Law universally understood by the First People, known to whites as Native Americans or “Indians.” He said the various treaties made between red and white people incorporate rules of nature which existed long before settlers arrived from Europe.

Chief Edwards with the wampum beads

The Two Row Wampum Renewal Campaign is intended to educate current generations about the perpetuity of these agreements, which the Iroquois have continually honored but colonial powers quickly reneged on and forgot.

“We're still here, you guys are still here. So this agreement is still in effect,” Edwards noted. “They had it written down, and you people told
them, 'one drop of rain and you won't understand that paper tomorrow.' We put it on a belt of wampum, and so this is still alive,” he said.

Chief Edwards said the agreement “will last as long as the sun shines from the east, sets in the west, as long as the grass grows green, and for as long as the waters flow downhill. That in our minds, as one, means forever,” the soft spoken chief observed.

“The great value of feeling is now transcribed into value of money,” Edwards explained. “You can't eat that and you can't drink that,” he said. “You're not at peace if your belly's full of dollar bills. It's not a matter of history; it's a matter of life.”

At the end of July, a delegation of canoes will embark from Albany to New York City on a 13-day journey to renew the message of the Two Row Wampum Treaty, representing both cultures mutual agreement to live side by side in peaceful sustainability with nature.

Also this summer, a delegation will be arriving on horseback from the Sioux Valley Dakota Nation riding from the west, bringing a similar message.

Albert Taylor, great elder for that tribe, will be arriving in advance at Woodstock on Thursday November 22, the Great Day of Mourning, known
to whites as “Thanksgiving.”

Taylor will be pray and sweat at Magic Meadow, an ancient LaCrosse field, and give a lecture at Mountain View Studio about legal battles involving Indian treaties broken by white governments. Edwards confirmed pre-existing treaties with other tribes which remain honored. “We have one with our brothers from the west,” he said.

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