Photographs (left to right): Okefenokee, Georgia,Mendon Ponds, NY, St Johns USVI;

Wampum Belt Archive

King's Great Broad Axe Belt


Hypothetical Reconstruction based on description.

R. D. Hamell December 02 2021

Original Size:
Length: 72.0 inches. Width: 36.0 inches.
Columns: 454. Rows: 72. Beads: 32,688.
Painted Red


War of 1812 (excerpt from The Shawnee Prophet, R. David Edmunds, Univ. Nebraska Press.

News of the ware reached the Wabash on July 6, but at first the message had little impact. Following Tecumseh's instructions, the Prophet took pains to keep his followers quiet until he received further word from his brother. He sent messengers to the tribes in Illinois, informing them that the Redcoats and Long Knives had gone to war, but since food was so scarce on the Wabash, he did not encourage them to assemble at Prohphetstown. Instead, Tenskwatawa sent each of the western tribes a pipe and a belt of wampum, charging them to wait until late in the summer, when they were "to join him at his village with the corn is made, so [they all could] agree when and where to strike on the Americans." At that time, according to the holy man, the British would furnish them with clothing, guns, and powder."

Meanwhile, the Prophet took care not to alarm the Americans....(page 126 not available)

(p127)...planned to hold a major conference with all the tribes of Ohio, Indiana, and Michigan at Piqua, Ohio, in August, and asked him to attend. The Shawnee agreed, and even promised to send to Canada fro Tecumseh so that his brother could "stand by his side" at the council. He then requested that the agent supply his followers with food and ammunition, but Stickney had little of either to spare and agreed to give ammunition only to some friendly Delawares who would provide the Prophet's followers with just enough lead and powder for hunting. Stickney furnished some of the Kickapoos with horses to make the journey to Piqua, however, and the agent seemed optimistic about keeping the tribes at peace.

His optimism was unwarranted. While Tenskwatawa was still encamped at Fort Wayne, he received a messenger bringing important dispatches from Malden. The rider carried a huge red wampum belt, three feet wide and six feet long, sent by the British to all the western tribes. Signifying British arms, the belt was named "the King's Great Broad Axe" and supposedly possessed medicine "to cut down all before it." The messenger also brought instructions from Tecumseh. Since Hull had just invaded Canada and the British seemed on the defensive, the war chief urged his brother to muster their warriors at Prophetstown, but to send all their women and children west into Illinois, where they would be safe from American military expeditions. The Prophet and his followers should then attack Vincennes, and afterward follow their women and children into the West before the Americans could retaliate. If Tecumseh survived the American invasion Canada, he would join them in the land of the Winmebagos, where they could continue their war on the Long Knives.


Edmunds, R. David. 1985. The Shawnee Prophet. Univ. Nebraska Press 272 pp.