Sunday, November 30, 2008
What Does It All Mean?
On top of the Seneca Allegany Casino is a lighted depiction of the Guswentha or Two Row Wampum. In the lobby of the Seneca Niagara Casino the Two Row is tiled into the wall and is even worked into the lighting system of the Three Sisters Cafe. The Hiawentha Belt flies as a flag in front of the Seneca Nation administration offices. The casinos are the antithesis of the Two Row. They exist because permission was granted by the State and federal governments. They exist because the State and federal governments are allowed to regulate their operation. The Seneca Nation of Indians rejected the constitution represented by the Hiawentha Belt and adopted a system crafted by the white man. If the Seneca Nation is "The Keeper of the Western Door", then the question is; the door to what? I don't raise these questions specifically as a criticism, but more as an opportunity. Perhaps it is because these institutions bear these symbols that we need to revisit or learn their meanings. Perhaps the use of these symbols is not a mockery of their meanings or intents. Perhaps, whether intentional or by accident these Wampum Belts say something to us from where they now perch. I can't accept them just as decoration; they mean too much. Are they a message to us or to the non-native public? I am quite sure the people who decided to display these images don't know why they are there, so maybe the message is to the casino executives and the SNI officials. The Wampums were not created for historical puposes. They were created for the future. The casino executives and tribal government do not decide if the People are still Haudenosaunee or if they ride in the canoe or the ship. The People decide if they are the Keepers of the Western and Eastern Doors, if they will defend each other and protect ourselves. Perhaps we need to acknowledge that we have created certain entities that operate outside of our canoe and that those entities must follow the Two Row and stay in the ship where they have been placed. We, the People steer the canoe.