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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.
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.