The Two Row Wampum Belt: The Original Constitution


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Wampum belts are sacred agreements that First Nations people used to confer authority and document laws of the land for hundreds of years prior to colonization.
300 years ago as European settlers were rapidly coming to Canada and taking lands, First Nations Communities made an official and binding contract with the settlers. It is contained in three different Wampum Belts: The Two Row Wampum Belt, The Twenty Four Nations Wampum Belt and The British and Great Lakes Covenant Chain Confederacy Wampum Belt.
These Three Wampum Belts are actually the first Constitutions of Canada.
In 1764 more than 2000 First Nations Chiefs met with European self-declared Canadian leaders and ratified the negotiations and the Wampum Belts. This was all documented in the Treaty of 1764 Wampum Belt.
“The Two Row Wampum is about peace and friendship,” said Oren Lyons, Onondaga Nation Faithkeeper and a Two Row Wampum expert. “As long as the grass grows green, water flows downhill, and the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, the wampum belt has meaning. It’s an agreement—you stay in your ship; we stay in our canoe.”
The original constitutions were agreements that outlined an expectation of the First Peoples of Canada that the European People could settle without any obstacles by First Nations People BUT in turn Indigenous ways of living would not be disturbed or interfered with. The settlers promised and agreed to respect the self determination of Indigenous Communities and to not get in the way of their cultures or way of life. The settlers also agreed to treat First Nations People as Sovereign Independent Nations.
History has shown that the treaties were not respected by the European Settlers and later treaties, the Indian Act and Residential Schools were a flagrant and Inhumane disregard of the original agreements and discussions.
All of the promises were broken in the existence and execution of residential schools. Instead of staying in their ship European settlers spilt blood in the waters and on the original constitutional agreements ratified between all Nations in 1764.
Putting up one of these flags has to be about more than performance. If you put up a Two Row Wampum Belt flag you are committing to working on truth and reconciliation with Indigenous peoples by honouring the original laws of this land.