Photographs (left to right): Prickly Pear, Utah; Lichen, William Smith College, Adirondacks, New York; Mustard Dynasty Flower (ca), Utah

Wampum Belt Archive

16th Century

Algonquin Belt 50_2287

American Museum of Natural History Ethnographic Collection

Reproduction (Oct. 2015) R. D. Hamell
Original Size:
Beaded Length: 24.0 inches. Width: 8.5 inches. W/fringe: 48 inches
139 columns by 20 wide. 2,780 beads


Warp: leather. Weft: artificial sinew.

Description:Algonquian, Eastern Canada or Northeast U.S. Description on commendation event signified by this belt had been cutoff in the photograph.The following description was kindly provided by Darren Bonaparte (2011):

Promise Belt  (An Algonquin belt, date probably before 1600)
The Mohawks, as keepers of the Eastern Door of the Ho-de-na-sau-nee, League of the Iroquois, "held" both belts, the Promise and Boundary.  These belts have been in the possession of the descendants of these Mohawks for more than two centuries.
By the "promise" of the purple beads (meaning the people and condolence) this belt has been used in war and mourning.  The eight six-sided figures represent cantons or the different tribal council places of the confederacy.  The crosses in the center are the council fires built in accord with the points of the compass.  At each end, or "gates" of the confederacy the council fire is larger.  The four diamond figures represent tribes under alliance with the French, whose "Catholic" sign the four beaded cross in the center.  As these figures are nearest the "gates" they define the later condition of the Indians who had accepted the Christian faith.

This belt has been broken at each end and perhaps for stated reasons among the indians themselves!  The original length, marked by yellow ribbons, can be defined by the indentations, on the buckskin strings, which mark the twist of the beads in weaving. Purchased by Harriet M. Converse in 1901


Bonaparte, Darren. 2011. The Wampum Chronicles. Personal Communications.

Stolle, Nickolaus. 2016. Talking Beads: The history of wampum as a value and knowledge bearer, from its very first beginnings until today. Hamburg, Germany. ISSN 1437-7837