‘Polishing the Chain’ ceremony opens first Senate meeting of 2022

Wampum belt presented as a symbol of ‘unification’

January Senate kicked off with the Polishing the Chain ceremony.
Supplied by Terri Flindall

The first Senate meeting of 2022 opened with the “Polishing the Chain” ceremony. The event has been held annually since the friendship wampum belt was first presented to the university Senate by the Clan Mothers at Tyendinaga and the Grandmothers' Council in 2017.

Wampum belts have been used by Indigenous peoples throughout history to represent unification across communities.

 “It’s like our constitution,” Richard Hill, speaker of the event, said at the ceremony.

“Belts made of wampum are used to mark agreements, contracts, and commitments between peoples and are of particular significance when associated with treaties or covenants between Aboriginal peoples and European colonial powers.”

Indigenous populations on Turtle Island strive for deep connections with those who reside on the land. These connections, according to Hill, are symbolized by wampum belts. The belts represent a mutual respect and desire for peace.

“We’re going to pick up those wampum belts and treat each other as part of one family,” Hill said.

An attendant of the ceremony, Principal Patrick Deane referred to the belt as a physical symbol of the expectations of the Indigenous populations of Canada and a recommitment to Queen’s efforts to keep lines of communication with Indigenous stakeholders “open and honest.”

“I’ve invited everyone here to polish the chain of our relationship and to ensure it does not get rusty,” Deane said.

During the ceremony, Elder Te howis kwûnt (Allen Doxtator) also gave thanks to Mother Earth.

“We combine our minds to give thanks to the Mother Earth, the grasses, the waters, the three sisters—all that we have been given,” Doxtator said.

Deane acknowledged Queen’s as an “institution has been complacent with colonial practices” and has harmed Indigenous communities in the process.  

Deane reaffirmed the University’s commitments to “honor Indigeneity and create an inclusive environment for all.”

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