Wampums are purple and white tubular beads of seashells. Wampum is mainly used by indigenous peoples of the eastern forests for ornamental, ceremonial, diplomatic and commercial purposes. Wampum belts were used to mark agreements between peoples. (See also the chain of alliances and treaties with Aboriginal peoples in Canada.) Onondaga CEO Jake Edwards talks about Two Row Wampum`s contract at an event in February at Syracuse Stage. A special issue of the Journal of Early American History is devoted to the Two Row Wampum Agreement. You say you`re our father and I`m your son. We say, “We will not be like father and son, but as brothers.” This wampum belt confirms what we`re talking about. […] None of us will legislate or interfere in the internal affairs of the other. None of us will try to fly the other ship.
The Haudenosaunee two-hemille belt (Kaswentha) is a well-known example of a wampum belt. It symbolizes still an agreement of mutual respect and peace between the Haudenosaunee and the European newcomers (first the Dutch) in North America. The principles have been embodied by its design in the belt: two rows of purple pumps on the background of white beads represent a canoe and a European boat. Parallel pathways are the rules governing the behaviour of indigenous and European peoples. Kaswentha stipulates that neither group will impose its laws, traditions, customs or language, but will coexist peacefully if each group follows its own path. While most of the first recorded recitations of the Kaswentha relationship between the Haudenosaunee and the Hollunders do not explicitly mention the Wampum belt, the descriptions of “wampum belts in documentary sources, especially from the beginning of contact, are notoriously vague.”  In addition, the wampum belts of artifacts were extremely sensitive to degradation and dismantling, so the first belts were not expected to survive if they had actually been replaced in the early 17th century. “Thirteen years, the 400th anniversary of the Bi-Row Wampum Agreement, is a good time to rethink our past and future relationships as peoples and as nations,” said Tonya Gonella Frichner, an Onondaga who heads the American Indian Law Alliance. “Forever” is described by our ancestors in this agreement in these terms: “As long as the grass is green, as long as the water goes down and the sun rises in the east and sets in the west.” This is the first place where these words were spoken. Then you hear them from the movies, you listen to them in different places. The United States has used these real words in some treaties, which were concluded in 19 but this is the first time they have been spoken to here by the Haudenosaunee to say that this contract would be allowed to last forever. We didn`t think your paper would survive the times. It is not possible to definitively answer the question of which materials were exchanged, or not, during the first negotiation of the contract.
While it is possible that a two-row wampum belt may be included in the first negotiations of the contract, there is no demonstrable evidence to support this assertion. However, there is evidence in the form of hedenosaunee oral tradition that wampum belts, if not in the initial negotiations, then at least in the first renewal rituals (of which there are many) between the Haudenosaunee and the Dutch (later the British).