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UB’s Ninth Annual Indigenous and American Studies Storytellers Conference evokes the Two Row Wampum Belt Treaty of 1613

Photo of two-row wampum belt.

Government attacks on the environment and abuse of indigenous treaty rights have provoked widespread calls for the decolonization of native culture

Release Date: March 22, 2013

“The important thing to recognize is that the Two-Row Wampum Belt agreement, which was signed in upstate New York, was founded on mutual respect based on friendship, peace and acknowledgment of each other’s different traditions so long as the grass grows, the waters run, the sun rises and Mother Earth lives.”
Steve Demchak, conference organizer
Photo of two-row wampum belt.
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BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Among indigenous peoples across America and Canada there is outrage and a strong activist movement provoked by what they consider the destructive ongoing violations of the 400 year-old Two Row Wampum-Belt Treaty by American and Canadian governments and entities protected by them – violations Native Peoples say threaten not only indigenous health and culture but life on earth.

“Decolonization through Tradition,” the ninth annual American Studies Storytellers Conference, to be held April 12-13 at the University at Buffalo, is presented by the American Studies Graduate Student Association, Department of Transnational Studies. Events will include:

·         Pre-conference potluck dinner and Haudenosaunee social – April 12, from 6-10 p.m., to be held at the Native American Community Services of Erie and Niagara Counties, 1005 Grant St., Buffalo.

·         Conference –April 13, beginning at 9 a.m. in 120 Clemens Hall on UB’s North Campus, with keynote address to take place at 1 p.m. Breakfast, lunch and snacks will be provided.

·         Post-conference dinner – April 13 from 6-10 p.m., to be held at the Banchetti Banquet Facility and Grove, 550 North French Rod. Amherst.

Additional registration and program information about registration is available at: http://gsa.buffalo.edu/AMSGSA/Index.html.

“Our purpose this year,” said conference organizer Steve Demchak, "is to reinvigorate the vision of peace, power and righteousness that was so clearly articulated in 1613 by indigenous and settler peoples with consideration to our future paths and generations in our respective boats.

“The important thing to recognize is that the Two-Row Wampum Belt agreement, which was signed in upstate New York, was founded on mutual respect based on friendship, peace and acknowledgment of each other’s different traditions so long as the grass grows, the waters run, the sun rises and Mother Earth lives.”

The keynote speaker will be Doug George-Kanentiio, Bear Clan, Askwesasne Mohawk, founder of the national Native American Journalists Association, former member of the Board of Trustees of the National Museum of the American Indian and chair of Round Dance Productions, a nonprofit educational foundation on Oneida land dedicated to the preservation of Iroquois culture.  He is the author of many books and articles about native history and current issues, the latest of which is the book, "Iroquois on Fire: A Voice from the Mohawk Nation” (2008, University of Nebraska Press).

The conference will also feature dozens of indigenous scholars from across Canada and the U.S. who will focus on the consequences of these treaty violations and other problems provoked by colonialism and the current vigorous attempts by indigenous peoples to decolonize themselves.

Speakers will address such topics as national identity, oral traditions, language recovery and vitalization, indigenous sovereignty, land reclamation and use and environmental restoration and protection.

The John Mohawk Legacy Address will be delivered prior to the post-conference dinner by Rick W. Hill Sr., Beaver Clan, Tuscarora Nation, Six Nations Grand River Territory.

Hill, a UB MA ’90 in American Studies, has since served as special assistant to the director for public programs at the National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution. He now works as senior project coordinator at Deyohahage Indigenous Knowledge Center at Six Nations Polytechnic, Ohsweken, Ontario.

Demchek says the conference will be held in solidarity with the Two Row Wampum Belt renewal movement and the Idle No More movement, the latter founded by the First Nations, Metis and Inuit peoples of Canada in response to a number of Canadian legislative omnibus bills, particularly the notorious Bill C-45, which they say threatens the continuation of our ecosystem and future generations.

As it has every year for the past nine years, the conference continues to honor its founders: the award-winning scholar author, editor, conflict negotiator and champion of the rights of indigenous peoples John Mohawk, PhD, and nationally known activist, well-loved teacher and scholar Barry White, both of whom were members of the Turtle Clan of the Seneca Nation of Indians and both of whom taught for many years in the UB Department of American Studies, which White helped to found.

Media Contact Information

Patricia Donovan
Senior Editor, Arts, Humanities, Public Health, Social Sciences
Tel: 716-645-4602
pdonovan@buffalo.edu