In considering the use of The Two Row wampum belt in my teaching practice, I have tried to consider an issue that has been problematic for many schools in the TDSB after returning from the shutdowns caused by the Covid pandemic. Students have returned to school, forgetting how to play with each other. Problematic behaviour during recess (fights, arguments, bullying, etc.) is on the rise across the board. There are few, if any, new resources available to help schools, staff, and students work through these concerns. Adding in the necessity for students to remain in their cohorts of approximately 20-40 students, all consigned to their area of the field, seeing the same faces day in and day out in class, at recess, during lunch, it does not appear that this behaviour will be improving anytime soon. This is where the idea of the Two Row Wampum comes in.
“The Two Row Wampum envisions a relationship between the two treaty partners of peace, friendship, and mutual respect. The parallel rows of purple wampum represent the journeys of two peoples, neither interfering with each other’s voyage or trying to steer the other’s vessel.” This quote from the reading caught my attention immediately. I think that introducing the idea of students working through the lens of not just a simple, not a verbal “I’ll try to leave you alone” arrangement, but an actual treaty based upon the Two Row Wampum Belt could prove beneficial.
Educators can use this approach in virtually every grade. Teachers and facilitators can start with a grade-specific historical overview of the agreement and what it meant. This could be tied into several strands of the Social Studies curriculum or connected to Language. Students could understand how the treaty was supposed to work and realize the result of what happened when the treaty was no longer honoured. They could then develop language for their own treaty of friendship and mutual respect. This could be a school-wide project involving the entire student body, educators, and the greater community if possible. Students could create posters (Art and Media) to explain the meaning of the agreement and how students can respect it at schools. These would also serve as a visual reminder for students as they exit their classes for recess.
Doing an activity like this will allow students to see how history can affect us here in the present and help them see the past’s ramifications on us today. It can also give them a greater understanding of the specifics of Indigenous culture and history and how it affected generations of Indigenous people.