National Musuem of American Indian Exhibit Featuring 1794 Canandaigua Treaty Prompts Historic Meeting Between Haudenosaunee & Obama Administration



November 10 Meeting takes place one day before 220th anniversary commemoration 

WASHINGTON — On November 11, 1794, members of the Haudenosaunee (Six Nations Confederacy) signed a seminal federal treaty with the then-fledgling United States, bringing peace between the two and recognizing the sovereignty of the Haudenosaunee to govern and set laws as individual nations. On Monday, November 10, 2014, 220 years minus one day later, traditional Haudenosaunee (Six Nations Confederacy) chiefs and leaders will gather in Washington, D.C.with members of the Obama administration for an historic meeting.

The timing of this meeting is significant as the Canandaigua Treaty is featured front and center in “Nation to Nation: Treaties Between the United States and American Indian Nations,” a new exhibit at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI). It was this exhibit—in development for 10 years, and the largest of its kind—that prompted next week’s meeting.

Nation to Nation Treaty Exhibitiion now on display at National Museum of the American Indian

Nation to Nation Treaty Exhibitiion now on display at National Museum of the American Indian

Among the Native leaders in attendance will be Tadodaho Sid Hill, Onondaga Chief, Oren Lyons, Faithkeeper of the Turtle Clan of the Onondaga Nation who sits on the Council of Chiefs of the Haudenosaunee, and Peter Jemison (Seneca, Heron Clan), Faithkeeper at the Cattauragus Reservation of the Seneca Nation, and Ganondagagn State Historic Site Manager. In their hands will be the original 1794 Treaty Belt, one of the most revered of Haudenosaunee wampum belts, brought to signify the magnitude of the treaty’s terms.

“It is the issue of sovereignty that is most paramount for us,” explained Peter Jemison, “whether we are working with a United States government agency or with another country.” According to the terms of the Canandaigua Treaty, all issues are to be addressed by the Executive Branch of the US government, which is why the November 10 meeting is so fitting. “Our goal is for both parties to uphold the Canandaigua Treaty and be mindful of its terms,” continued Jemison.

The meeting will open with the traditional Thanksgiving Address (Ohen:ton Karihwatehkwen) followed by a discussion led by Oren Lyons as principal speaker. A gift will be presented for President Obama, and a wampum belt will be returned to the Haudenosaunee from the United States. Treaty cloth, a mandated annual fulfillment of the original Treaty, also will be presented to the Native leaders. The group then travels to NMAI where a small ceremony will be held to mark the historic meeting. After an opportunity to view the exhibit, a Treaty panel discussion will take place at 3:00 pm.

The next day, as it does every November 11 in Canandaigua, New York, the Friends of Ganondagan will once again host the public commemoration of this historic treaty. The annual commemoration is a time of rededication, helping to ensure that the “chain of friendship” and agreements between nations remain current and vibrant. The treaty was signed in Canandaigua by Colonel Timothy Pickering—official agent of George Washington—and sachems from the Grand Council of the Six Nations (Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida, Mohawk, and Tuscarora). The treaty at the Smithsonian exhibit is the original that later was signed by President George Washington.

At 1:30 pm, a walk begins from Canandaigua Primary School (96 W. Gibson St.) to the Ontario County Courthouse. It is led by Haudenosaunee Chiefs with representatives from the Six Nations and the United States, side-by-side. The traditional commemoration ceremony takes place at 2:00 pm on the Courthouse lawn introduced by Ganondagan State Historic Site Manager Peter Jemison. Also attending are Quaker representatives whose ancestors witnessed the original signing as people of peace to ensure fair negotiations.

From noon-4 pm, attendees are invited to view one of only two original copies of the treaty and pertinent letters at the Ontario County Historical Society (55 N. Main St.). Keynote speaker Rick Hill, Sr. (Tuscarora, Beaver Clan) will be featured at 6:00 pm in the auditorium. Hill is the former Special Assistant to the Director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian. He is a professor of American history, an artist, photographer, and a leading authority on contemporary Native American art and Indian images depicted in multi-media. Hill was the Museum Director and principal designer of the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, and Museum Director for the Native American Center for the Living Arts.

All Treaty Day activities are free and open to the public. Throughout the day will be a Native arts sale in the Primary School gym. This event is organized by the Friends of Ganondagan and made possible through the collaboration with the Canandaigua City School District, City of Canandaigua, and the Friends of Ganondagan. It is sponsored by the Haudenosaunee Peace & Trade Committee, Mohawk Nation Council, Tonawanda Seneca Nation, Tuscarora Nation of Indians, and the Seneca Nation of Indians.  For more event information, visit or call 585-742-1690.

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