Wampum was a system of recording important
Wampum was never used as money by the Iroquois
Nations. It was used to write things down, and used as a symbol of
position and title. The great circle wampum, for example, was a belt
worn only by a chief as a symbol of his position. Wampum was also
given to seal a promise.
The colonists used wampum as money. But then,
they used everything as money, including coins from many different
European nations, all at the same time. To the Iroquois People, wampum
was a written record.
Wampum was made from dyed beads or shells,
arranged in a certain way. To make wampum:
First, you needed to collect the right sized
shells or make certain sized beads.
Then, you needed to dye your materials.
Individual beads and shells were dyed various shades of solid
purple, solid cream, or a mix of purples and cream. No other
colors were used in making wampum.
Next, you had to string your beads on a
thread in a certain order, depending upon what you wanted to say.
The designs made out of certain combinations of colors had both
symbolic and actual meaning. Long messages were made by sewing the
strings of beads together to make a wampum belt.
Obviously, you had to know what you were doing,
or who knows what message you might be sending.
Wampum makers were
skilled artists and trained in the messages of the wampum. They were
the tribal historians. All the big events of the League of Nations
were recorded in wampum.
a Virtual Wampum Belt