1952.5.08

Wampum belt of 5 rows of white shell beads with nine blue shell beads in the centre and hide fringing at either end. [EC 'DCF 2004-2006 What's Upstairs?' 3/10/2005]

Place details: N AMERICA. United States of America? / Canada? / Cultural Group: Native American: Local Name: Wampum Materials: Shell / Bead / Skin / Animal Hide Skin / ?. Processes: Beadwork / Machine-made / Perforated / Strung / Tied / ?. Colour: White Purple Dimensions: Max L = 650 mm Max W = 53 mm Field Collector: ?James Bisset When Collected: By 1952 Other Owners: ? James Bisset ? Leamington Museum Evelyn Charles Shirley John Evelyn Shirley PRM Source: Evelyn Charles Shirley via John Evelyn Shirley Acquired: Loaned May 1952 Purchased January 1966

KEYWORD: Belt / Waist Ornament / Ceremonial Object / CLASS: Writing / Clothing / Ritual and Ceremonial / Ornament / ?.

Research notes: Observations made by delegates during the ‘Object Lives’ research visit to the PRM on the 13-15th April 2015. The delegation consisted of Beverly Lemire, Anne Whitelaw, Sara Komarnisky, Judy Half, Cynthia Cooper, Sarah Nesbitt, Sarah Carter, Jonathan Lainey, Laurie Bertram, Susan Berry, Katie Pollock and Julie-Ann Mercer. This is a University of Alberta-based group; see: http://objectlives.com/

Jonathan Lainey, Wendat historian with the group, commented: Unusual wide hide strips. Shells are natural colours though sometimes belts were painted to communicate certain messages (eg red for war). Both women and men made wampum belts. Minutes of council: receive a wampum and need time to prepare and answer and produce a wampum belt. Wampum belts have to be made from wampum beads which are marine shells traded from New England. Diplomatic use of wampum belts required. Began with trade. Beads made on industrial scale with metal tools. Nettle fibre, indigenous hemp or sinew used for cords. In North America wampum are now sacred powerful objects no longer displayed. There is no sense of this in the archive. PRM Source, Colonel Shirley – French Indian war.

[FB 31/10/2016]

Examined by the GRASAC research team on 10 and 11 December 2007 as part of a research project to create a digital database. This will incorporate information about collections of indigenous material culture from the Great Lakes region of North America that are housed in a number of museums on several continents; see https://icslac.carleton.ca/grasac/. The group noted that the weft threads are commercial cotton, the warp is hide, no one in the GRASAC team has seen another belt with such wide hide warps. The weaving technique is unusual as the beads have been added one at a time and double wefts have been twisted together before adding the next bead. In the middle is the remnant of a purple motif possibly a figure, probably a diamond, Ruth Phillips thought this could represent a hearth, or nation, or council fire. [for information on the Project see researchers file GRASAC]. [ZM 11/12/2007] [L Peers 14/01/2008]

The final GRASAC entry on this object reads: Materials: Made of white and purple wampum beads strung upon a commercial cotton thread weft with a hide warp.

Format/Techniques: The belt is five rows wide, made mostly of white beads. CW noted that the interlocking or weaving technique on the belt's edge is atypical of wampum belts. The beads appear to be sewn on at the ends of the belt. The GRASAC research team stated that this belt's warps are unusually wide, and no one has seen similarly wide warps on other belts.

Motifs and Images: LP noticed that there appear to be remnants of a single figure in the middle. It looks as if it might have been diamond-shaped. JM noted that the diamond motif is found on other belts, often between motifs, but also by itself.

Symbolism and Interpretation: RP said the diamond motif is often explained as representing the hearth, nation or council fire. [Laura Peers, 08/10/2008]