June 25, 2014

The Covenant Chain

The British Empire and Iroquois Confederacy fought side by side during the War of 1812, for the most part. The alliance between these two groups was based on the Covenant Chain established years before.

The Covenant Chain was a series of alliances between the British and Iroquois beginning in the seventeenth century. These agreements were designed to support peace and stability while preserving trade. The agreements attempted to settle disputes between tribes and colonies in North America.

The Covenant Chain between the Crown and the Iroquois is based on the metaphor of a silver chain holding a British ship to the Iroquois Tree of Peace. A three link silver chain symbolized their first agreement with the links representing peace, friendship and respect.
A representation of an original Covenant Chain treaty belt

When one member of the agreement pulled on the chain, the other participant responded. A number of agreements between the Crown and the Iroquois have been made and it was the bases of these agreements that many Iroquois used for justification in supporting the British during the War of 1812.

In 2010, Queen Elizabeth II renewed the Covenant Chain Treaties by presenting eight silver hand bells to the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory and Six Nations of the Grand River in recognition of the first Covenant Chain Treaty signed 300 years before. The bells were inscribed with the words “300 Years of Peace and Friendship.”

If you want to find out more about Covenant Treaties and First Nations culture, head to Fort Niagara on June 28 and 29 for a presentation of The Honouring. Doors open at 8 p.m. both nights and admission is free. Click here for more information.

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