Historically the Haudenosaunee were nations of people who practiced very sophisticated, yet simple, diplomatic principles in their dealings with other nations.
When the Haudenosaunee first encountered the representatives of certain European nations, they found that they were unaware of these principles, and had the potential for disrupting the peaceful ways that Haudenosaunee people wished to live.
Because our cultures and lifeways were so different, it was essential that a relationship be established based on mutual respect.
The Haudenosaunee proposed a treaty of peace, respect and peaceful co-existence, known as the Kas-wen-tha, or Two Row Wampum belt.
The belt was made with two parallel rows of purple wampum on a bed of white beads. The white was meant to symbolize the purity of the agreement. The two separate rows of purple beads, were made to symbolize and encompass the spirits of Haudenosaunee and non-Haudenosaunee people and ancestors. Between the two rows of purple beads, three rows of white beads, were placed. These were made to stand tor the friendship, peace and respect between the two nations.
It is said, that the two rows of purple beads, further symbolize, that two nations of people in separate vessels travel down the river, parallel from each other. The Onkwehonwe (Native people) are in their canoes. This symbolizes their culture, their laws, their traditions, their customs and other lifeways. The non-Native people are said to be in their own ships, which symbolizes their culture, their laws, their traditions, their customs and other lifeways.
It is said that, each nation shall stay in their own vessels, and travel the river side by side. Further, it is said, that neither nation will try to steer the vessel of the other, or interfere or impede the travel of the other.
The Two Row Wampum is a treaty of respect for the dignity and integrity of the other culture and stresses the importance of non-interference of one nation in the business of the other, unless invited.
The early principles established in the Two Row Wampum Treaty formed the basis of all Haudenosaunee treaties with other Nations, including the Dutch, the French, the British, and then the Americans.
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