Thirteen-Day Voyage on Hudson River Marks Anniversary of Two Row Wampum Treaty Between Dutch Settlers and Hudson Valley Native Americans

Commemorative journey: Communities celebrate a 400-year-old bond

This year marks the 400-year anniversary of the Two Row Wampum Treaty — the first treaty between Dutch settlers and Native Americans in what is now New York State. In 1613, the Haudenosaunee (also called the Iroquois Confederacy) came to an agreement with the Dutch near Normanskill Creek just south of Albany. The terms of the treaty stated that the natives would help the Europeans learn how to survive in the Valley; in return, the Dutch would establish trade with them — but neither would intrude on the other group’s way of life. To record this understanding, the Iroquois wove the Two Row Wampum Belt, which displays two parallel rows of purple — one representing the Dutch, the other the natives — amid three rows of white beads, which symbolize the river. “Wampum belts were how the Haudenosaunee remembered anything that needed to be remembered,” explains Jack Manno, the education outreach coordinator for the Two Row Wampum Renewal Campaign, a statewide initiative that raises awareness about environmental issues and Native American rights — and is also behind a celebratory canoe trip which marks this big anniversary.


Clockwise from left: Paddlers take to the Hudson; making bark canoes; taking inspiration from a wise old owl

owl canoe making

On July 28, members of the Haudenosaunee and their friends were scheduled to embark on an epic journey. Beginning in Rensselaer, hundreds of people will pilot canoes down the Hudson, concluding their 13-day voyage at the United Nations on August 9. Along the way, participants intend to camp each night in riverside towns. Beacon is hosting a celebration of the anniversary on August 3, when the flotilla is scheduled to arrive; festivities include poetry readings, live music, children’s crafts, and a visit from the Dakota Unity Riders — members of a Canadian Native nation who will ride in on horseback. In addition, “artists are creating eight-foot-tall canvas totems,” says Kalene Rivers, one of the festival’s coordinators. “After the festival, they’ll be installed on Main Street for a year.”

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Manno stresses that the river journey is more than just symbolic. “This is not a reenactment, like when we celebrated Henry Hudson’s voyage,” he explains. “We’re enacting what the treaty was meant to be: a respectful friendship.”

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