Holding Hands With Wampum: Haudenosaunee Council Fires from the Great Law of Peace to Contemporary Relationships with the Canadian State

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Muller, Kathryn V.
Iroquois , Haudenosaunee , Wampum , Covenant Chain Alliance , Great Law of Peace , Aboriginal-Canadian Relations
“Holding Hands With Wampum” weaves a story of disparate peoples who came together to create a new North American World over a period of more than five centuries. The Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, Seneca, and Tuscarora member nations of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy conceptualized their universe according to the kaswentha ethic and above all treasured autonomy on local, national, and confederate scales. “Holding Hands With Wampum” traces the spiritual foundations of this Haudenosaunee worldview and then uses ethical discourse to explain the evolution of Haudenosaunee-European relationships through the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries to Canadian Confederation and, finally, to the modern age of land reclamations and assertions of Haudenosaunee sovereignty. Unravelling a uniquely Haudenosaunee perspective of the past, “Holding Hands With Wampum” is a cultural form of intellectual history, as it employs Haudenosaunee culture and ethical discourse to understand the place of a diverse community in the very public world of council fires and other political interactions. As an exercise in ethnohistory, “Holding Hands With Wampum” combines the documentary record with wampum belts and oral interviews in an effort to create a balanced historical narrative that situates culture in a constantly changing geo-political reality. The concept of métissage also provides a framework for understanding how these dramatically different peoples came together in the eighteenth century and created a new, common diplomatic protocol. Only by shedding light upon Haudenosaunee-European relations over such a long period can we hope to understand contemporary issues of land and treaty rights and, perhaps, learn how to rekindle the métissage of a not so distant past.
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