Photographs (left to right): Mohave Desert, California; Sunset, Rush, New York, Mohave Desert, California

Wampum Belt Archive


Redpath Museum Belt



Original Size:


Belts were once at the Redpath Museum. The bottom belt is likely Iroquois because of the Octagons symbols. The belt above appears to be a solid purple design

but may not be so. Could it be a condolence belt?

Penn Museum:

This glass belt was clearly made with care and with intent: the weaving material reflects the color of the beads. The dark red beads have been darkened even further by the addition of a black ash-like coating that has partially soaked into the leather. It is constructed following the same Native weaving techniques observed on shell belts, but it does not use shell beads. As Dr. Bruchac observed, in wampum semiotics, the message is quite clear: dark beads (in the absence of any white beads) signal trouble, complexity, something powerful in a potentially harmful way. Those beads were apparently selected because of their ambiguity between black and red. The fact that they are foreign might indicate several things; we theorize that either it was made by Europeans, or it was made about Europeans.

According to the curatorial records at the Nicolet Seminary, this belt was given by the Blackfoot of Alberta to l’Abbé Georges-Henri Laforest during his sojourn in First Nations territory far to the west of Nicolet. This appears to be an early belt, using a style of glass bead common in the east, but uncommon in the west. If this belt originated in a region where wampum making was more common (the Northeast Atlantic coast, the Saint Lawrence seaway, or Haudenosaunee territory), it would have carried a very recognizable message that transcended language barriers: trouble is coming, involving foreigners. Since glass beads were common trade goods, the origin of the beads might identify which group this message would refer to: could a French bead represent the French? (Puyo, 2014)


Meachum, Scot. 2013. Personal Communications.

Puyo, Lisa. 2014. How Much Does Matter Matter? A Glass Wampum Belt at the Archives of Nicolet Seminary. Penn Museum Blog, July 18.