The Meaning of Kaswentha and the Two Row Wampum Belt in Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) History: Can Indigenous Oral Tradition be Reconciled with the Documentary Record?

In: Journal of Early American History
Author: Jon Parmenter1
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This essay analyzes the colonial era documentary record for corroboration of Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) oral tradition regarding the kaswentha (as currently understood and represented in the form of a Two-Row wampum belt). Eighteen different recitations of the tradition appear in documentary sources from 1656 to 1755. These findings demonstrate substantial convergence and complementarity between two perspectives on the past and suggest that the comparison and integration of indigenous oral tradition and documentary research may yield a more robust understanding of the past than would be the case of either undertaken alone.

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