The Truth that Wampum Tells Tour: Canada’s Constitutional History through Wampum Diplomacy – Idle No More

Author / Activist / Artist Dr. Lynn Gehl, Algonquin Anishinaabe-kwe.

The 1763 Royal Proclamation is commonly thought of as Canada’s first constitutional document. What many people do not know is that the Royal Proclamation was ratified during the 1764 Treaty at Niagara.

Because successive governments of Canada have promoted a particular version of Canada’s history – a fiction of two founding nations – the broader Canadian public may be unaware of the significant roles Indigenous Nations held in Canada’s creation.

sixhundred3.jpgTo guarantee the successful ratification of the Royal Proclamation, to ensure a clear understanding as well as to codify the historic event at Niagara, William Johnson relied on Indigenous practices of wampum diplomacy and its inherent forms of symbolic literacy.

During the ratification of the Royal Proclamation Johnson presented two Wampum Belts to the Anishinaabeg. These two Belts are known as The British and Great Lakes Covenant Chain Confederacy Wampum Belt and The Twenty Four Nations Wampum Belt. The former Belt codified a relationship between equal allies that was as strong as links in a chain, a relationship that required a process of polishing and re-polishing what may tarnish, just as silver tarnishes. The latter Belt represented the Indigenous Nations that participated at the Treaty at Niagara, with a chain secured to a rock on Turtle Island, running through the twenty four Nations’ hands, and attached to a British vessel. This represented the negotiating process Indigenous Nations were to take to ensure their equal share of the resources and bounty of the land.

In turn, Indigenous Nations presented Johnson a wampum belt: the Two Row Wampum Belt. This belt codified a nation-to-nation relationship rooted in the philosophy and practice of non-interference mediated by peace, friendship, and respect. It is with these three belts that the Indigenous understanding of Canada’s constitutional beginnings is codified. And it is in this way that the Proclamation is only one of Canada’s first constitutional documents.

This knowledge was a large part of my doctoral work. To create a larger space for an Indigenous knowledge, one where our right to self-determination and mino-pimadiziwin (the good life) resides at the core, I have constructed new editions of these three historic Wampum Belts or, alternatively, these three constitutional documents. I have also recently published a book titled The Truth that Wampum Tells: My Debwewin on the Algonquin Land Claims Process. This book is a ground breaking and important book.

The Truth that Wampum Tells offers a never before done insider analysis of the contemporary land claims process in Canada offering a historical analysis of the Algonquin Anishinaabeg, a discussion of participation at the 1764 Treaty at Niagara where Canada’s constitutional documents were ratified, an analysis of their displacement and dispossession from their traditional territories, as well as an analysis of how the Algonquin of Ontario are exercising their agency within the confines of Canada’s ongoing and never ending termination policies.

What is particularly new about this work is that it relies on an ancient Indigenous (Anishinaabeg) methodological approach known as Debwewin Miikan-Zhidchigewin. This methodology was published in AlterNative (2012).

What I am proposing is more than a book launch. I am also proposing to read my Treaty at Niagara Wampum Bundle that I made as part of my doctoral process.

I am seeking out host/venue sponsors, media sponsors, and sponsors willing to contribute to covering speaking and travelling expenses. Here is a link to an introduction to the book:

Here is a link to an Indigenous Waves radio show:

Here is a link to a short introductory video of the Algonquin and the Treaty at Niagara:

Here is a link to a story about this book being selected as a top 10 Indigenous read:

If you are interested in bringing this tour into your organization, friendship centre, university, or college as a host/venue institution, and motivated to assist with media sponsorship and with speaking and travelling expenses, contact

The Truth that Wampum Tells Tour: Canada’s Constitutional History through Wampum Diplomacy: