Letter to the Editor: The Two Row Wampum and the Rules of Law

Two Row Times,

Two Row Times,

Dear editors,

An agreement between the Mohawk Workers and Guswenta Holdings Incorporated (a Canadian Holdings Company) has the Kanienke:haka and the Haudenosaunee community-at-large conflicted with the recent signing of that agreement.

The two row wampum can be used as a mechanism that will break down the logic, the positions and identities of our “subject” in the paramount question, “who is who?”, and “where they are coming from?” Once we know who is who, and where each stand, the law of each and the conflicts that exist may become clear.

Before the who, lets define the where, lets “discover” the foundations of the two possibilities, this and that, here and there, our rule of law and their rule of law.

The Kaianere:kowa (which I translate as the “Great Way of Life”) it sets out the path for the Haudenosaunee (which I translate as the Extended Families) a path that is considered the first steps of democracy for those who picked up the burden of peace. The founding nations who accepted the Great Way of Life went on to unify and protect the new burden called the Great Peace (or the Kanienkeh: Skennen:kowa).

In the search for peace, territorial land claims became obsolete. The fact is that claiming a portion of land meant that all the people within the land were seen as subjects or slaves. Since it the same with all those outside of the claimed land, those people then became enemies and seen as potential threats to life itself.

When the peace was affirmed by the newly formed Haudenosaunee League of Nations, it was agreed that all lands would be made open for anyone who would follow the great way of life and carry the burden of peace. This established the Dish with One Spoon way, a collective rights agreement that made the peaceful sharing the resources over large areas of land possible.

Within the Great way of life we are warned from submitting to the laws of foreign nations, in fact in doing so would alienate and forfeit that individual’s birthrights to the Haudenosaunee Law. Tehonatonkoton means “they have alienated themselves.”

According to wampum 58 of the Kaianere:kowa, “any persons who submit to the laws of a foreign people are alienated and forfeit all claims to the Iroquois [Haudenosaunee] nations”

This is a harsh reality for the Haudenosaunee, however if we are to experience the Great Way of Life and fulfill the duties set forth within, then we must honor our responsibilities. This means that we have to pick one row or the other row, here or there, our rule of law or their rule of law.

There are many forces pushing people away from the Great Way of Life, but the strongest come from the foreign elements. This was obvious during the adoptions of the Great Way of Life, and so a safeguard was included, so that any who walk away from the circle could not carry away the rights of any others and what he walked away with he carried as an individual.

Honoring the Dish and One Spoon as way to understand collective rights, meaning that the lands and resources are entrusted and embodied within all Onkwehon:we as a collective rights agreement, protected by the collective nations who honor the memory of our original duties.

In wampum law, there is also the ever growing tree wampum, If we walk too far from our path the ever growing tree wampum reminds us how to follow our roots back to the Great Way of Life.

So in recognition of the rule of law “wampum 58”, who really signed this controversial agreement between Mohawk Workers and the Guswenta Holdings Incorporated, Kanienkehaka or Canadian individuals?

Benjamin II