Photographs (left to right): Tent Rocks National Monument, New Mexico; Ten Sleep Canyon, Wyoming; Tent Rocks National Monument, New Mexico

Wampum Belt Archive


Five Chiefs Wampum Belt

Belt 'trimmed' on left. Beauchamp 1901

Reproduction R. D. Hamell 11/20/2012

Original Size:

not given


Beaded Length: 48 inches by 11.5 inches. Length with fringe: 72 inches


Columns: 252 Width: 25 wide. Total 6,300


Warp Leather. Weft: Artificial Sinew


Tooker (1998) described the photograph in Beauchamp's (1901) report that this belt represents half of a belt (the other half was left in New York State) symbolizing the formation of the Iroquois league.

Gilkison (1928, p. 48) report that Chief Buck (see Tooker's footnote No. 6) described it as the:

"the most extensive, being on groundwork of blue wampum and over seven inches wide. On it was worked in white, five figures, representing men hand in hand and standing with their elbows crooked. This represented the great Iroquois league. The idea originated with a chief, Pa-ka-na-wi-dak [Deganawideh], that it would be well to form different Indian tribes into a confederation for mutual protection, for before they were at war among themselves and were consequently diminishing in numbers. That was during the settlement of New York State by the English, Dutch and French. This belt represents the tribes standing in a ring joined hand- in-hand, and the compact was to be so strong that even though a tree might fall it could not break the chain of unity. The understanding was that if any one went out from this circle of protection he would have to go out for good and could never be received. Their elbows being crooked indicated that if a deer were to try to break through the chain his horns would catch on them; or, in other words, if a chief should leave the confederacy he must leave his chieftainship or authority behind him. The emblems of chieftainship are the antlers of a deer. The other half of the belt was left in New York State."

Quote Bardeau (2011)
This belt of five white figures on a purple background was described in 1877 as representing the original Five Nations, joined together under the Great Law. A fragment is displayed at the Museum of Man in France. The dark purple belt woven on buckskin thongs, doubled along the edges, shows 3 figures standing hand-in-hand with their elbows crooked. It is said that this belt once had 5 figures and represented the Great Law. A theory is that the belt may had been divided “according to the old law” as ransom of some prominent or important captive. Others interpret the belt represents the idea that if anyone left this circle of protection, he would leave for good and could not come back. This belt was acquired from the heirs of Mary Jemison in 1899.

Stolle, Nickolaus (2016): ex ROM Dd12711, gift of Evelyn H. C. Johnson in 1922, repatriated 1999.


Bardeau, Phyllis Eileen Wms. 2011. Definitive Seneca: It's In The Word. Jaré Cardinal, editor. Seneca-Iroquois Museum Publisher, Salamanca, New York, 443pp.

Beauchamp, 1901. Wampum and Shell Articles Used by the New York Indians. NYS Mus. Bull. 41, pp. 321-480.

Gilkison, Augusta I. Grant. 1928. What Is Wampum? Explained by Chief John Buck. In Thirty-sixth Annual Archaeological Report, Being Part of Appendix to the Report of the Minister of Education, Ontario. Pp. 48-50.

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

Tooker, Elisabeth. 1998. A Note on the Return of Eleven Wampum Belts to the Six Nations Iroquois Confederacy on Grand River, Canada. Ethnohistory, Vol. 45, No. 2 (Spring), pp. 219-236.