Wampum Belts

How would you record an agreement you had with someone and make sure that people in the future understood what that agreement entailed? In modern times we would likely write down the details, perhaps in the form of a contract. The tradition of early First Nations was to make a wampum belt that contained symbols representing the event or covenant. Named for the short, tubular shell beads called “wampum,” these belts are sacred to the Indigenous people, as they are a record of their agreements made with European colonial powers.

Wampum belts were first developed by First Nations Peoples to assist community members and Nations in recalling and recording events. Wampum are carved beads made from white and purple edge clams that are woven or strung in a symbolic design or pattern that represents historic events, government agreements, and as a reminder device for oral tradition used in ceremonies. When given for an event to commemorate an agreement, they acted in much the same way that legally binding contracts did for Settler Nations making wampum the essential medium of all peacemaking. Every act of diplomacy had to be carried out through the giving and receiving of wampum. If a message had to be sent, it would be spoken into belts or strings of wampum, which the messenger would present to the recipient.

Even when people of different nations did not speak the same language, the symbolism of the wampum was understood. For example, Anishinaabe and Haudenosaunee would exchange wampum belts as a peace symbol after a period of war. Similarly, Nations at peace would attach a wampum belt to their canoe when travelling through another Nation’s territory, outlining and reminding them of a specific peace agreement. All who read the wampum would recognize the meaning and allow the visitors safe passage under the wampum covenant.

Before Confederation some groups of Indigenous people, particularly those in the Eastern Woodlands (including, among others, the Haudenosaunee, Mi’kmaq, Ojibwe and Wendat (Huron) peoples) indicated their agreement to certain treaties by presenting long wampum belts to Crown officials. Some examples include the Hiawatha Belt (the belt of the Haudenosaunee) and the Two Row Wampum Belt (Kaswentha).

Hiawatha belt

The Hiawatha belt is a national belt of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy. The belt is named after Hiawatha, an Onondaga who was the Peacemaker’s helper in spreading the good words of Peace. This belt records when five warring nations; the Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida, and Mohawk, buried their weapons of war to live in peace. Each square represents a nation, and the line connects all the nations in peace. The symbols of the Nations are placed in their traditional geographic order from east to west.

Two Row Wampum belt (Kaswentha)

The Two Row Wampum Belt (Kaswentha) of the Haudenosaunee symbolizes an agreement of mutual respect and peace between the Haudenosaunee and European newcomers (initially the Dutch) to North America. The principles were embodied in the belt’s design: two rows of purple wampum beads on a background of white beads represent a canoe and a European ship. The parallel paths represent the rules governing the behaviour of the Indigenous and European peoples. The Kaswentha stipulates that neither group will force their laws, traditions, customs or language on each other, but will coexist peacefully as each group follows their own path.

~ by Marion Thomson Howell

The Laudato Si’ Goals

Have you noticed the large bunches of grapes hanging from the choir loft? Those grapes represent the seven Environmental Goals identified by Pope Francis in his encyclical Laudato Si’, and form the basis of a worldwide movement within the Catholic church.  St. Francis of Assisi Parish has joined this movement and these goals inform our Environmental Team as they plan events and initiatives for our parish. As we complete projects we add a leaf to that bunch of grapes. Hopefully over time the leaves will completely fill in!

Cry of the Earth – We hear the earth crying out to us for help, begging us to be the stewards of Creation that God created us to be.  The earth cries out that we must stop wasting her precious resources and find ways to work with her to sustain life. We have responded to this goal by installing a Rain Garden and rain cisterns, holding the Pollinator Garden Webinar and by continuing to plant pollinator gardens on our church property to support ecosystems.

Cry of the Poor – Responding to the Cry of the Poor means recognizing that the marginalized are often the most affected by ecological hardships, and we must find ways to work together for ecological justice for all. Our parish community responds to this goal every year through Share Lent and other Development & Peace Campaigns. Our expanded vegetable gardens have also already provided six deliveries of produce to Tiny Home Takeout!

Ecological Economics – With Ecological Economics we acknowledge that the economy is a human system which can support or destroy life, and we are called to create an economy which is life giving, which focuses on sustainability and justice for humans and all of creation. St. Francis Parish strives to buy sustainable products whenever they are available and to hire local tradespersons to maintain and repair equipment instead of simply buying new every time.

Sustainable Living – Adopting a Sustainable Lifestyle is a very spiritual practice because it requires us to be purposeful, to think about our purchases and daily decisions and how they affect our neighbours and our environment. Our parish has a long history of sustainable practices including only using reusable, compostable or recyclable products which means we never have more than two bags of garbage even after our large parish dinners!

Ecological Education – As we strive to make changes in our own lives and the broader society we need to continue this work in future generations, by encouraging our schools and teachers of all kinds to incorporate ecology into every aspect of education. St. Francis Parish works to help educate people of all ages through our weekly tips in the bulletin, periodic environmental newsletters, and through partnership with St. Paul’s School to create new gardens there.

Ecological Spirituality – The goal of Ecological Spirituality is to help us rediscover God in all things, in His beautiful creation, in the struggles of those around us, everywhere. The Spirit is not removed from us, but is moving all over this land, through every aspect of our lives. Our parish prayed the Stations of Creation this past Lent, and we continue to connect our spiritual lives with creation through our Indigenous Garden and many of these Summer Series articles.

Community Engagement – In Laudato Si’ Pope Francis reminds us that we are not individuals living in our own worlds but members of the human family living as part of this one Creation. As such, we cannot accomplish these goals on our own. To this end St. Francis Parish joined the Faith Climate Justice group of churches in Waterloo region; we sent a petition for new laws to govern Canadian companies exploiting other countries’ resources to parliament, and we continue to build relationships with Indigenous and other community groups to promote the Laudato Si’ Environmental Goals everywhere.

~ by Alice Soeder

Catechist Formation

St. Francis of Assisi Parish is very happy to be hosting Level 1 Part A Catechist Formation for Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, beginning this fall for those who wish to help children deepen their relationship with God through this Montessori style of catechesis. The formation program consists of six retreat-like sessions, one per month, from October 2022 to April 2023. Part B will be offered the following pastoral year. There is a cost to the program but scholarships are available. Click the button below to learn more about the course and Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, or you can contact the parish office at stfranciskitchener@hamiltondiocese.com or 519-745-7301.