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Two Row Wampum Campaign begins symbolic trip over New York's waterways

Ellen Abbott

The Haudenosaunee's Two Row Wampum Renewal Campaign has taken to the waterways of New York state. Paddlers have begun a canoe trip that will take them from the Onondaga Nation, through Albany and to the United Nations in New York City, as part of an education and advocacy strategy about this region's Native Americans.

The campaign marks the 400th anniversary of the Two Row Wampum, the first treaty between the Haudenosaunee and Dutch settlers in New York state.

At the Two Row Wampum Festival at Onondaga Lake Park Tuesday, Allison Smith, of the group Neighbors of the Onondaga Nation, explained to visitors the definition and history of a wampum belt.

"The biggest misconception about wampum is that people think it's money, and that it was traded as money," she says. "But it wasn't."

Smith says the Two Row Wampum reflects a very sacred part of the Haudenosaunee culture.

"It was used to tell stories, it was used to write treaties, to give messages, to store histories, birth's deaths."

Organizers hope this campaign not only educates New Yorkers about the history of the Haudenosaunee, but also is a springboard for advocating for issues close to the Native American culture,  such as cleaning up the environment.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.