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Old 02-03-2005, 08:47 PM   #1
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FROM: THE SYRACUSE POST-STANDARD NEWSPAPER

http://www.syracuse.com/news/postst...2/1107337374764
70.xml

Sacred Onondaga Relic Finds Way Back Home

State saves it from eBay auction, returns it when Onondagas threaten lawsuit.


Wednesday, February 02, 2005

By Mike McAndrew
Staff writer

Two centuries ago, an Onondaga Indian named Kakiktoton gave six strings of
wampum to New York's treaty commissioners hours after the Onondaga Nation sold 2
million acres to the state.

On Friday, four months after New York pressured an Albany area man to give it
the wampum, and after the Onondaga Nation threatened to sue the state over
the strings of beads, New York surrendered the wampum to the Onondaga.

"It's good to get back the wampum," after 217 years, said Tadadaho Sid Hill,
the spiritual leader at the Onondaga Nation.

Wampum - belts or strings containing purple or white beads - are considered
sacred cultural treasures by the Onondaga.

Before the Onondaga learned to write, they used wampum to communicate
messages or record events.

Kakiktoton's wampum string is considered sacred, too - even if it is a
reminder of the day when the Onondaga Nation's territory shrank by roughly 95
percent.

No one can read the Kakiktoton wampum anymore, Hill said, but the strings are
now linked to both a modern story and an old story about New York's
contentious relationship with the Onondaga.

In early September, the Onondaga and state Education Department officials
discovered that wampum strings were being offered for sale on eBay.

Rick Walker, of Watervliet, who inherited the beads from his grandfather,
said bidding had

reached $600 in only three days, well beyond the $299 reserve price he had
set. Seven hundred people were watching the eBay page. Walker said the first
bidder was a man in Germany. Through eBay, he was getting e-mails about the
wampum from people from all over the world.

The wampum was being offered for sale with an unsigned, undated handwritten
note on parchment that said the strings were delivered by Kahicktoton, a chief
of the Onondaga, to the state treaty commissioners on Sept. 12, 1788, at Fort
Schuyler, declaring that Ojanoewe was to be his successor.

Kakiktoton, whose name is spelled several ways in historic records, was one
of two Onondaga who negotiated a treaty Sept. 12, 1788, at Fort Schuyler with
Gov. George Clinton.

In the treaty, the Onondaga gave to New York all but about 108 square miles
of the Onondagas' land for 1,000 French crowns, 200 pounds in clothing, and
annual payments of $500, according to the commissioners' report on the treaty.
The 1788 treaty reserved to the Onondaga nearly all of present-day Syracuse; all
of the town of Onondaga and the village of Solvay; and parts of the towns of
LaFayette, Otisco, Camillus and Geddes.

The treaty also said that Onondaga Lake and a one-mile swath around it would
forever be for the common benefit of New Yorkers and the Onondaga to make
salt.

New York's treaty commissioners' report on the 1788 treaty contains this
notation: "In the Evening of the same Day Kakiktoton, one of the Onondago Chiefs,
in the Presence of the Nation announced to the Commissioners that O:
Ojanoenwe, alias Jones, would be his Successor, and in Testimony thereof delivered to
the Commissioners a String of Six Rows of Wampum."

State officials and the Onondagas' lawyer both contacted Walker and persuaded
him to end the eBay auction, said Paul Larrabee, a spokesman for the attorney
general's office.

Walker said it is a mystery how his grandfather, who worked for a moving
company in New York City, acquired the beads about 50 years ago.

The beads sat in his grandfather's attic for decades, and were stored in his
attic for the past five years, Walker said. He said he decided to auction off
the beads because he needed new tires on his car. He had no idea of their
value, or of their significance to the Onondaga, Walker said.

"I stepped on a cultural land mine," he said.

Walker turned the wampum over to the state without receiving any compensation
from New York because an assistant state attorney asserted that the state was
the rightful owner.

"It was pretty intimidating," he said. He said he didn't want to give up the
wampum but felt the state was pressuring him and he had no choice in the matte
r.

Walker said he came to believe that the wampum belonged to the Onondaga. So
he negotiated to sell his ownership interest in the wampum to the Onondaga
Nation for slightly more than $600 - the amount of the high bid on eBay.

The state wanted to preserve the wampum strings because they constituted a
"state record" of the 1788 treaty between New York and the Onondaga, Larrabee
said.

Haudenosaunee Confederacy wampum belts are specifically listed in the federal
Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act as objects that are of
such importance to the Haudenosaunee that they cannot be legally separated
from the Haudenosaunee nations.

That law has enabled the Onondaga and other Indian nations in recent years to
recover thousands of skeletal remains, wampum and other sacred objects from
museums across the country.

In 1989, after about 90 years of pressure from the Onondaga, New York
returned 12 wampum belts to the Onondaga. Those belts included the Hiawatha Belt,
which tells of the formation of the original Five-Nation Iroquois League, and the
Washington Covenant, which commemorated a peace treaty between the
Haudenosaunee and the 13 original colonies.

Friday, after the Onondaga Nation had threatened to sue New York over the
Kakiktoton wampum strings, Joe Heath said, the attorney general's office had
Federal Express deliver the wampum in a box to his office.

Larrabee said the state was "facilitating the return to the proper owner."

Kakiktoton's wampum consists of six strings of beads tied together at one
end, with the longest string about 17 inches, and the shortest about 7 inches.
Three of the strings contain only purple beads. Two contain white and purple
beads. The shortest has only white beads.

"I'm extremely glad they ended up with the Onondaga," Walker said.

The Onondaga were unaware that the Kakiktoton wampum strings existed intact,
or who possessed them, until spotting the listing on eBay, said Onondaga Chief
Irving Powless.

But Powless said he's glad New York decided to return the strings.

"Wampum is not an artifact to us," he said. "It's an integral part of our
daily lives."

"We still use it," he said.

2005 The Post-Standard. Used with permission.
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Old 02-08-2005, 11:17 PM   #2
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FROM: THE SYRACUSE POST-STANDARD NEWSPAPER

http://www.syracuse.com/news/poststa.../1107510018480
20.xml

Is Onondagas' Wampum Return Significant?

Wampum's return Onondaga omen?

Friday, February 04, 2005

SEAN KIRST
POST-STANDARD COLUMNIST

Gov. George Pataki introduced a bill Thursday that his staff described as
"landmark legislation." The bill proposes settlements for five Iroquois land
claims made against the state, claims that have been knocking around for either a
few decades or 200 years, depending on your point of view.

Noticeably absent were any claims by the Onondagas, whose territory is just
south of Syracuse. The Onondagas are the traditional "firekeepers" of the
Iroquois Confederacy. The southern shoreline of Onondaga Lake serves as a kind of
Jerusalem for their longhouse religion. The city of Syracuse falls within the
vast acreage once controlled by the Iroquois.

While the Onondagas have never taken their grievance against the state to
court - despite saying many times that it was all but set to go - don't be
surprised if the claim gets filed soon. If the Onondagas needed any kind of final
push, it is hard to imagine a more powerful symbol than what came to them last
week:

On Friday, state officials handed over six beaded strings of wampum to
Onondaga leaders. For these particular beads to arrive at Onondaga, at a time when
Pataki is pushing hard for other land claim settlements, is so unlikely a
coincidence that it almost reads like fiction. The beads were given to the state
217 years ago, during the same negotiations in which the Onondagas surrendered a
huge chunk of their land.

For the last few years, the wampum were tucked away in the attic of a house
owned by Rick Walker, a guy who works at an Albany sporting goods store. Walker
told Post-Standard reporter Mike McAndrew that he inherited the beads from
his grandfather, who was employed by a moving company. Walker said no one is
sure how his grandfather came up with the wampum, which are used by the Iroquois
to commemorate significant events.

The wampum were gathering dust, said Walker, who readily admits he is no
expert on Indian artifacts. He told McAndrew that he hoped to make enough through
some collector to pay for new tires for the car. With that in mind, Walker
decided to sell the beads on eBay.

The Onondagas spotted them. They managed to get the sale called off. The
wampum went into hands of state officials, who agreed they were authentic, an
artifact from the crucial 1788 meeting between state land agents and Onondaga
leaders. All of that might seem like terribly dry history, until you consider what
the Onondagas sold, and what they kept.

And what the courts would almost certainly say that they still own.

The deal was cut at Fort Schuyler, part of what is now Rome in Oneida County.
The state bought 2 million acres of Indian land in Central New York, in
return for 1,000 French crowns, 200 pounds of clothing and annual payments of $500.
The Onondagas, for their part, held on to a reservation of roughly 108 square
miles.

This is where old stories abruptly transform into fresh news. If other court
rulings are a precedent, the Onondagas can still make a strong claim to legal
ownership of those 108 miles. That includes almost all of what is now the city
of Syracuse. It includes much of what are now our major suburbs, as well as
the entire shoreline of Onondaga Lake.

The Fort Schuyler negotiations, then, would be a centerpiece of any Onondaga
land claim - and the newly returned wampum, which changed hands for the last
time at Fort Schuyler, become a surreal bridge across the centuries. According
to state documents, an Onondaga named Kakiktoton gave the beads to New York's
treaty commissioners. The Onondagas, quoting those records, say the wampum did
not symbolize the treaty itself.

They maintain the wampum were given over for safekeeping until another
Onondaga leader, at some point, arrived to take them back.

As for the wampum, they began a journey of more than 200 years that would
eventually leave them in Walker's attic - at least until Onondaga leaders paid
$600 for their return.

The more pressing mystery is why the Onondagas have waited so long to file
their claim. Maybe it is because they have no use for casino gambling, a
lucrative carrot in Pataki's talks with other Iroquois nations. Maybe it is because
the Onondagas, who say they'd never try to seize anyone's home, have sought to
avoid the furious community backlash that occurred after the Oneidas and
Cayugas took their claims to court.

Whatever the reason, for the last 15 years, the Onondagas have said from time
to time they were ready to file - and then haven't done it. They are a people
who always move at their own speed, unfazed by the deadlines and pace of life
beyond their borders, but they are also a people who take stock in prophecies
and signs.

And these wampum were intended, all along, for leaders who'd come later.

Sean Kirst is a columnist with The Post-Standard. His columns appear Mondays,
Wednesdays and Fridays. Call him at 470-6015 or e-mail him at
[email protected].

2005 The Post-Standard. Used with permission.
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Old 02-14-2005, 07:57 PM   #3
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well, that's good that thse finally came home, now if only the rest of the things stolen from the first nations would be returned.......
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