Polishing the Covenant Chain at Kanonhstaton Saturday
By Jim Windle
Some Six Nations and Haldimand residents are getting tired of waiting for the government to decide if it should transfer the former Douglas Creek Estates land over to Six Nations or to sell it back to Caledonia.
In the meantime, the temperature between the two communities has cooled enough to attempt a joint community garden, and to symbolically reaffirm the historic friendship between the two communities.
No one needs to rehash the events of the summer of 2006 on either side of the issue that blew apart the peaceful coexistence many older residents remembered growing up.
The idea of reaching across the division and taking positive steps towards healing the shattered relationship came through some members of the Men’s fire at a meeting at the Old Council House recently. Talking it through, with a few Caledonia residents, it was decided that it might be time to come together and to, once again “polish the Covenant Chain”, and affirm it with the planting of a joint communal garden.
There has been quiet, ongoing social gatherings of a few residents of Six Nations and of Haldimand County for several months. There is rarely a political agenda, but rather a true spirit of friendship between neighbours.
This Saturday morning, all are invited to attend a sunrise ceremony at 6 am at Kanonhstaton (Douglas Creek) followed by a sharing and interactive time before the formal polishing of the Covenant Chain, which is a historic treaty of friendship and mutual respect between the Haudenosaunee people and the early settlers.
The principles of the agreement will be explained and a fresh commitment to friendship will be made by representatives from both sides of the two row wampum.
Following what organizers representing members of the Men’s Fire are calling a mini-condolance, a plot of land will be resoiled, and furrowed, and planted by those in attendance in a shared garden. There will be two symbolic rows of white and purple petunias planted as well.
A white pine and a maple will be planted at that time as well which is hoped to grow into a lasting memorial of the recommitment to peace and respect.
Organizers are asking men and women from Six Nations and its neighbouring communities to bring food for a potluck following the ceremonies.
A sign is being designed for the property as well which will read “We are All Treaty People” as a reminder that despite the many cultural differences, we are all created alike.
An organizer, who wishes not to be singled out but rather to share the event equally with everyone, told Tekawennake, “We’ve been talking about something like this for a long time. When the leaders are not talking to one another, the people need to show them and encourage them that it’s time to reach out towards one another to restore our relationship. The people will be the example to the politicians that we can get along. This covenant chain was to be polished regularly so we would never forget. But it has not taken place in recent memory.”
A Haldimand resident, who also wishes to remain nameless, echoed those words, adding, “I know there are a lot of Haldimand people who are looking forward to this day as well and have been for a long time.”
Political leaders from both Six Nations and settler communities are being invited to participate in the ceremony and celebration of friendship as well.
What is the Covenant Chain?
According to Wikipedia, the Covenant Chain was an alliance between the Iroquois Confederacy (Haudenosaunee) and the British colonies of North America. Their councils and subsequent treaties concerned colonial settlement, trade, and acts of violence between the Iroquois and the colonists.
The Covenant Chain is embodied in the Two Row Wampum, and got its start in 1676 when the Province of New York’s governor Sir Edmund Androsnegotiated the signing of two treaties in which the Iroquois spoke on behalf of the other tribes involved:
1. A treaty between the Iroquois Five Nations and the colonies of Massachusetts Bay Colony and Connecticut which ended King Philip’s War in New England;
2. A treaty between the Iroquois and Delawares (Lenape), on one side, and the colonies of Virginia and Maryland, on the other, to obtain peace between those colonies and the Susquehannocks and Iroquois.
In a Covenant Chain council that took place in 1692, the Iroquois leaders asserted:
You say that you are our father and I am your son…
…We will not be like Father and Son, but like Brothers.
Most of these discussions took place in the Mohawk Valley, with local Province of New York leaders acting as the primary representatives of the colonies.
In a 1755 council with the Iroquois, Sir William Johnson, Superintendent of the Northern Department, renewed and restated the chain. He called their agreement the “Covenant Chain of love and friendship”, saying that the chain has been attached to the immovable mountains and that every year the British would meet with the Iroquois to “strengthen and brighten” the chain.
The term “Covenant Chain” was derived from the metaphor of a silver chain holding the English sailing ship to the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Tree of Peace in the Onandaga Nation. A three-link silver chain was made to symbolize their first agreement. The links represent “Peace, Friendship and Respect” between the Haudenosaunee and the Crown. It was also the first written treaty to use such phrases as
…as long as the sun shines upon the earth;
as long as the waters flow;
as long as the grass grows green, peace will last.
Polishing the Covenant Chain
By Rob Duncan, Caledonia As in the Caledonia Sachem
Link to original
A remarkable event took place at the Douglas Creek Estates on Saturday, May 29. Residents of Caledonia and Haldimand County assembled with members of the Six Nations community for a ceremony of peace.
The event started with a gathering of people standing around a fire united in friendship.
The organizers brought with them a special artifact, the Covenant Chain. I was told it is made of silver with three links representing Peace, Friendship and Respect. The Covenant Chain is to be periodically polished to symbolize the renewing of these values between the British Crown and Six Nations. It is a symbol of cooperation between nations and it has not been officially polished since the 1780’s.
Politicians from Haldimand County and Six Nations along with chiefs, community leaders, a clan mother, and residents of both communities came together to symbolically perform this ceremony. Though the chain was not actually polished, for those in attendance, this gathering was an important step forward in rebuilding the relationship between our communities.
Another symbolic act was the planting of two trees in a community garden. The trees were a white pine, symbolic of the Tree of Peace, and a maple tree. Petunias were planted to visually draw the trees together.
As remarkable as these events were, the lack of media presence was unfortunate. The trees and garden planted on the Douglas Creek Estates will serve as lasting proof of our communities’ ability to come together peacefully, united in a common goal.
I’d like to thank the organizers for bringing us together for such an important ceremony, and for their continued work toward finding a lasting solution to this difficult and complicated situation. I was privileged to be a witness to what is possible when we give Peace a chance.