Wampum was used by Eastern Woodlands Indians of North America as a way of keeping track of tribal
events such as marriage proposals, agreements between tribes and treaties with Europeans. The beads,
formed from the Quahog clam shell, were laboriously made by hand and woven into belts. Each belt told
a story and specialists were trained to “read” the belts. By the early 1600’s, European traders began
to use the beads as currency and after the Pequot War, colonists who received tribute payments from the
Indians in the form of beads, expanded the use of wampum as currency. Native Americans of the Northeastern
states continue to weave wampum belts as well as make beautiful jewelry from the purple and white quahog shell.
The display was created by Mary Kira.