Wampum (American Indians Ready Reference)
Article abstract: Native Americans used wampum to record the lives of significant people, tribal laws and events, and treaties or alliances
The historical literature points out that the term “wampum” is not an Indian one. Instead, wampum was coined from New England settlers who shortened an Algonquin term, Wampumpeag, meaning a string of white beads. In the Seneca language, it is called Otekoa, a name for a small freshwater spiral shell. Wampum has been described as finely embroidered belts or strings, many with glass beads that were typically cylindrically shaped, about one-fourth of an inch long and half that in diameter. The original bead, before glass ones were introduced, was purported to be a round clam shell (called quahog) that was traditionally drilled by hand, using stone or reed drills, before iron drill bits came from Europeans. Porcupine quills and animal whiskers were also traditionally used, and the Mohawks claim that even eagle feathers were earlier evident in wampum.
The first to use wampum were the coastal Indians along the Atlantic seaboard and the New England indigenous peoples. The Long Island Indians were especially noted for their skill in manufacturing wampum, which took a lot of labor...
(The entire section is 783 words.)
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