Created By: Ithaca Heritage
The Two Row 400 Year Anniversary Mural was designed and painted by Brandon Lazore (Onondaga Nation, Snipe Clan) in 2013 as part of the City of Ithaca’s resolution (June 5th 2013) in support of the Two Row Wampum Renewal Campaign. The mural depicts five chiefs of the original five nations of the Haudenosaunee (often misnomered as the Iroquois) complete with headdresses (gustoweh) unique to the individual nations (Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida, Mohawk, and Tuscarora). The chiefs are standing in Lazore's modern interpretation of a longhouse and are holding three wampum belts representing historic treaties and events in Haudenosaunee and U.S. history.
Wampum are beads made from white and purple mollusk (most popularly the quahog clam and channeled whelk), shells native to the ocean shores of northeastern North America. Wampum was not used as currency by the Haudenosaunee as is often misclaimed, though it was a popular trade item. Woven or strung wampum is used to signify the importance or authority of a message associated with it. Every Chief and Clan Mother in the Haudenosaunee Confederacy has a string or strings of wampum that serves as a certificate of their office. Woven wampum belts are used as mnemonic devices to aid community memory about agreements and important historic events.
The Two Row Wampum (Gä•sweñta’) is the recorded treaty between the Haudenosaunee and European settlers, created after a series of meetings in 1613 between the Mohawk and Dutch immigrants who were clearing areas on Mohawk land with the intention of building permanent villages and farms. The Two Row belt (farthest to the left) depicts two purple lines travelling parallel on a field of white beads. One of the purple rows was meant to depict the Haundeosaunee way of life, the other row the Dutch. Each of their ways of life would be shown in the purple rows running the length of a wampum belt. “In one row is a ship with our White Brothers’ ways; in the other a canoe with our ways. Each will travel down the river of life side by side. Neither will attempt to steer the other’s vessel.”
The Haudenosaunee and the Dutch agreed on three principles to make this treaty last. The first was friendship; the Haudenosaunee and their white brothers will live in friendship. The second principle is peace; there will be peace between their two people. The final principle is forever; that this agreement will last forever.
The Two Row is considered a living treaty by the Haudenosaunee. In 2013, the Onondaga Nation and Neighbors of the Onondaga Nation (NOON) developed a statewide educational campaign to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the treaty. It was during this campaign that the City of Ithaca in collaboration with the Multicultural Resource Center passed a resolution in support of the Two Row Wampum Renewal Campaign passed by the Common Council, signed by Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick and 2nd Ward Representative Seph Murtagh. Brandon Lazore’s mural design won a public contest offered by the City of Ithaca to reaffirm Ithaca’s commitment to the ideals of the Two Row Treaty. Article VI of the U.S. Constitution affirms all treaties as the “supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding.” As such, treaties between the governments of nations are active living agreements, although the U.S. government has rarely followed the law of its own founding documents in regards to treaties with Native American nations.
The center wampum belt is the Hiawatha Belt, which is also the official Haudenosaunee/Iroquois National Flag. The symbols depict the original five nations of the Haudenosaunee: Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida, and Mohawk (the Tuscarora joined in the 1700s) and an iconic meeting in which Hiawatha, an influential speaker and messenger for the Peacemaker, convinced the warring nations to bury their weapons beneath a white pine and agree to become one peaceful nation living in a shared “longhouse” with one law, one heart, and one mind. The nations, represented by the boxes, and the Tree of Peace are connected with lines, indicating a united confederacy of nations. This is the founding agreement of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy established over 1,000 years ago.
The belt held by the chiefs on the right represents the George Washington Belt, also called the Great Chain or the Covenant Belt. It is the treaty belt that President George Washington presented to the Haudenosaunee leaders at Canandaigua, NY, in 1794. The original belt is six feet long. The thirteen human figures symbolize the original thirteen colonies of the the young and newly formed United States of America. The two smaller figures and the house in the center represent the older and established Haudenosaunee Confederacy. Each of the figures are linked by a wampum belt to form a chain of friendship which represents the alliance between the United States and the Haudenosaunee Confederacy.
On the far left of the mural, now partially covered by plant growth, is a representation of the Remembrance Belt, which depicts a human figure standing above an open diamond, with a long line extending from the human’s head that ends in a cross. This belt is known by a number of names, and its meanings have inspired different interpretations over the years. Cayuga Chief Jacob E. Thomas, or Teiohonwé:thon has offered these interpretations of the belt on The Jake Thomas Learning Centre website:
This belt (Rononshonni:ton Ka’nikonri:io’ Raha:wi – Mohawk language) represents the Peacemaker who brings peace, power and righteousness.
The Prophecy Belt signifies the coming of the Peacemaker to the Earth. The line running along the belt shows his descent from the Sky-world.
The far right of the mural depicts the Neverending Tree of Peace or the Dust Fan Belt. This belt is very old, and is considered a founding document of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy along with the Hiawatha Belt. One interpretation of the design of the belt references the Tree of Peace, the white pine that the Peacemaker instructed the leaders of the warring nations to bury their weapons beneath before they became the Confederacy. The second meaning of this belt is to remind the chiefs of each nation to calmly deliberate in decision-making for the betterment of their people. The belt symbolizes the sweeping away of dust so the council can see the best path forward.
Inner panels of the mural depict vital traditional crops of the Haudenosaunee: strawberries, the first fruit of summer, and the Three Sisters; corn, beans, and squash. The Three Sisters made up the staple foods of the Haudenosaunee and were grown in a mutually beneficial planting pattern managed and maintained by the women of the tribe.
This point of interest is part of the tour: History & Art - Driving Tour of Tompkins County