Learning the importance of treaties and the Two Row Wampum
November 10, 2017
GUELPH, Ontario – Important lessons are taking place in schools, as staff and community partners teach students about treaties.
Paisley Road PS in Guelph is one such place, where the lessons inherent in the Two Row Wampum weave throughout the school.
As part of a school-wide initiative undertaken with neighbouring school St. Joseph Catholic School, Paisley Road PS staff and students created a Two Row Wampum, which commemorates their joint commitment to the promises they have made to each other and to the land.
The Two Row Wampum is widely recognized as the first formalized agreement between Europeans and Indigenous Peoples on Turtle Island (North America). It was introduced 400 years ago by the Haudenosaunee to the first newcomers in what is now the United States of America.
The Two Row Wampum envisions a relationship between the two treaty partners of peace, friendship and mutual respect. The parallel rows of purple wampum represent the journeys of two peoples, neither interfering with each other’s voyage or trying to steer the other’s vessel. Indigenous peoples viewed these principles as fundamental to their relationship with settlers and believe that treaties commit the partners to caring for the land.
The Paisley Road-St. Joseph wampum belt took more than 100 hours to make; each bead was carefully selected to ensure it met the right specifications. Each student from both schools had the opportunity to add a bead or two to the wampum belt.
Paisley Road staff say the project wouldn’t have been possible without the invaluable involvement of Yvonne Thomas and Maurice Switzer, as well as the UGDSB’s First Nations, Métis, Inuit Education Lead Colinda Clyne.
Creating the shared belt is just one way that students are learning about treaties and the Two Row Wampum.
During Treaties Recognition Week, classes took turns coming to the library to hear stories about treaties from Teacher-Librarian Julie Richer, who also set up stations where students learned about other belts and coloured bookmarks to create their own. Students also added to a school-wide LEGO wampum belt.
In the foyer hangs purple and white paintings from each student in the school, representing the treaty promise they made to take care of the Earth.
The message flows throughout the school that “We are all treaty people.”