Bird & Wampum

Bird & Wampum -click on image

About Bird & Wampum:

The Two-Row Wampum Treaty, also known as Kaswhenta, is a belt made of wampum beads symbolizing the Tawadonshi Areement of 1613. The agreement is said to have been made between representatives of the Five Nations of the Iroquois (Haudenosaunee) and representatives of the Dutch government in 1613 in what is now upstate New York (original homelands of the Iroquois). There are at least four wampum belts that contain the “two row” imagery, obviously a constant guiding principle of First Nation peoples and colonial powers which sets a symbolic standard of non-interference between the two: one will travel forward in their canoe, the other in their boat, side by side, and yet neither will pass laws to interfere with the steering of the other’s craft.


There has been some well-documented discussion about the authenticity of that two-row interpretation. Irregardless, I believe it to be an important and timeless mindset when dealing with relationships at all levels and various cultures: starting with a mindful respect for what is in each other’s vessel always creates a stronger and more meaningful basis for all to work within.

“Considering the fact that so many of these belts left our hands in the 1800’s, and have only recently started coming back, we should expect questions to arise about their true meanings. Wampum belts were mnemonic devices that helped our leaders to recall speeches given at the council fire. When the belts were sold off or stolen, their stories sometimes went with them, or disappeared completely. That we are able to connect any belts with their proper historic context is remarkable.” -Read more at


The Sky Dome symbol (also known as ‘Sky World’ representing where all life came from), repeated throughout this drawing, is a well-known and commonly used in bead and quill work design on traditional clothing and decorated objects. Although each design is slightly different, essentially, Sky Dome represents our World with the plant on top representing the Tree of Peace (The Tree represents the formation of the Iroquois Confederacy, the Peace Agreement of the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, Seneca and Tuscarora Nations). These Haudenosaunee are people of The Great Law which allowed them to all lay down their differences and to live in unity or peace. The Tree offers shelter to other peoples who would abide by the Great Law.
Below the Sky Dome is a parallel line (in this case I have an arc) representing our ‘Mother Earth’ as infinite, never-ending.

The Bird is an amalgamation of various types of larger species such as the eagle, hawk and crow. The Bird is seen as the Messenger (between the Creator and the inhabitants of Earth) and Protector of Peace (an Eagle is normally seen perched atop the Tree of Peace in position to defend and warn of danger to this peace).
The various circular objects represent both the Moon and Sun holding equally important and powerful energy positions in the sky.

The Bird is positioned, not quite touching the Wampum, but hovering just above with its fierce talons outstretched: is it just depositing the belt, about to grasp it, or merely protecting it?

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