Vincent Schilling
Iroquois Nation leaders, clan mothers and U.S. Government officials hold the belt George Washington had made and had presented to the Haudenosaunee in 1794 at the Canandaigua Treaty.

Iroquois Nation Reps, Clan Mothers, Gather for 222nd Annual Canandaigua Treaty Ceremony

Vincent Schilling

Iroquois Nation leaders, clan mothers and other tribal members gathered in Washington, DC on Monday to renew a 222-year-old treaty between the U.S. Government and the Six Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy. Known as the Haudenosaunee, the Confederacy nations include the Cayuga, Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Seneca, and Tuscarora.

Iroquois Nation leaders have been coming to Washington, DC annually for the past 222 years in honor of the Treaty of Canandaigua. The treaty which was signed on November 11th, 1794 by honored members of the Iroquois Nations and by the official agent of President George Washington, Colonel Timothy Pickering. The treaty is sometimes referred to as the ‘Pickering treaty.”

The treaty honoring ceremony was held in the Eisenhower building’s Indian Treaty Room and was attended by about 50 tribal leaders, representatives and clan mothers of the Haudenosaunee.

Representatives from the U.S. Government included Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of Indian Affairs Mike Connor, Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources Heather Higginbottom, Director of Domestic Policy Council Cecilia Muñoz and Deputy Assistant to the President and Director of Intergovernmental Affairs, Jerry Abramson. All the representatives thanked the Iroquois Nation peoples for their presence as well as acknowledging a difficult history and the need for continued peaceful relations.

Present at the ceremony was Representative of the Oneida Indian Nation and ICTMN Publisher, Ray Halbritter. “Though this is a treaty that has not always been lived up to, the idea of coming to a meeting like this is very significant,” said Halbritter. “The federal government is recognizing not only the existence of the treaty but they also cannot help but recognize its terms that command respect. It’s a commitment to keep their word. We say ‘polish the covenant chain.’ That is, keep the nation-to-nation relationship and continue to fulfill the obligations of perpetual peace between our nations.

“This is the concept of the Great Law,” Halbritter explained. “The United States had been influenced by the Confederacy ideal that all nations and all people should come together. That’s why we did not want to get involved in the war with Britain. It was between our own brothers, we had six nations had lived under the tree of peace, and that was the inspiration that people should put aside their differences and come together. Your unity is your strength.”

Chief Oren Lyons, Onondaga Faithkeeper, also commented on the Iroquois Nations people being presented with ceremonial cloth.

“With the treaty cloth that was presented, this is really polishing the chain,” said Lyons. “It is renewing the covenant that was made between leaders and the first president of the United States of America. This is obviously a lesson to the American public, in that they were making treaty belts at the time. People do not realize how important the protocol of the Haudenosaunee was. I think at these times, we need a voice of peace.”

President of the Seneca Nation, Maurice A. John Sr. shared his thoughts after the ceremony.

“It was truly an honor to join my fellow Haudenosaunee leaders at the White House for this year’s ceremony in the spirit of peaceful relations between our nations,” said John. “I was reminded of the laudable ideals of the Covenant Chain of Peace, and reinvigorated by our collective and renewed commitment to polish the chain of friendship and forge a path promoting peace and support. The ceremony was rich in historical significance, symbolism and marvel. It is our responsibility and obligation to convey its message and share its meaning with the next generation to experience and pass on.”

Rebecca Bowen, Director of the Seneca Nation archives told ICTMN via phone, “This original treaty from 1794 is a promise that our lands are protected. A treaty is a supreme law of the land, the presentation of the annuity cloth is a symbol of renewing that treaty. A treaty never dies.”

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