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Journal Explores Debate on Two Row Wampum Treaty


By Brill - Posted on 23 July 2013

Leiden (NL) / Boston (MA) – 23 July 2013

Brill, the international scholarly publisher, is pleased to announce the publication of a special free issue of the Journal of Early American History (JEAH) (www.brill.com/jeah) that focuses on the Two Row Wampum treaty, a historical agreement between the Dutch and the Iroquois that purportedly took place on 21 April 1613 – a date that is based on an allegedly forged document.

On 9 August 2012, the Syracuse Post-Standard revealed that supporters of the Two Row Wampum Renewal Campaign—which draws attention to environmental concerns and native sovereignty rights in light of the Two Row Wampum treaty anniversary—had been contacted by two scholars advising them that the document establishing the date upon which the quadricentennial anniversary was being calculated was a forgery.

Consequently, a debate ensued regarding the authenticity of the document. The public discourse showed a lack of confidence in scholarly inquiry and certain individuals intimated that scholars may be driven more by political concerns than by professional standards.

The editors of the JEAH—Jaap Jacobs, L.H. Roper, and Bertrand Van Ruymbeke—were intrigued and troubled by this debate, which raises questions about the wisdom of professional scholars engaging in what might be seen as lobbying activities. The debate seems to question the basis for historical scholarship—documentary-based research versus oral traditions, for example. The most significant concern is that the investigations into what might have happened in 1613 are being overshadowed both by an argument over the authenticity of the Tawagonshi document and by the current political and social significance of the 1613 date as it relates to the Two Row Wampum Renewal Campaign. To address the historical questions at the heart of the debate, the editors invited Paul Otto, expert on intercultural relations in New Netherland, as co-editor with Jaap Jacobs to produce an issue specially focused on the Tawagonshi and Two Row history.

In publishing this special issue of the JEAH, the intention of the co-editors is not to take sides in the debate but to shed as much light as possible on the historical context of this important anniversary through scholarly inquiry. Different aspects of the presumed 1613 treaty are addressed by experts in the field, including a linguistic analysis of the allegedly forged document, the early years of Dutch trade in New Netherland, Iroquois (or Haundenosaunee) diplomacy and oral tradition, Dutch-indigenous relations, and the history of wampum.

“First, the Tawagonshi document is a forgery and not a later copy of a lost original,” Paul Otto (George Fox University) and Jaap Jacobs (University of St Andrews), co-editors of the special issue, state in summarizing their findings. “Second, whatever agreements or negotiations traders […] may have made with native peoples, these could not be construed as diplomatic treaties between sovereign people. Establishing both of these facts does not, however, discredit the tradition of an agreement between Dutch and Iroquois representatives that later became the basis for English and then American negotiations with the Iroquois.”

View the free special issue here: http://booksandjournals.brillonline.com/content/18770703

For more information on this media alert, please contact Nozomi Goto, Editor, at goto@brill.com.

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