Photographs (left to right): All Mohave Desert, California/Nevada

Wampum Belt Archive


Wabanaki Confederacy Belt

source unknown (reproduction)


Tara Prindle (Reproduction)


Reproduction (Polymer) R.D. Hamell

May 04 2012

Graphic (glass) R.D. Hamell

May 04 2012

Reproduction: R. D. Hamell

Original Size:

Rows 5. Length: 25.5 cm


Beaded Length: 11.5 inches long. Width: 2.5 inches.


Rows: 71. Width: 5 rows. Total: 355 beads.


Warp: leather. Weave: artificial sinew.


Speck reported "the belt representing the union of the four eastern tribes in their local alliance (pl. xxiv, fig. b). This was a somewhat broader belt with a dark background, denoting former or potential hostility among the tribes, lightened on the margins with white borders denoting the bonds of friendship that now surround them. The alternating panels of blue and white at the ends are evidently a convention imitated from the Iroquois. The four white triangles are tribal "wigwams," the Penobscot, Passamaquoddy, Maliseet, and Micmac. In the center is the pipe which is the symbol of the peace ceremony by which the allies are joined. Such a belt would serve very general purposes in the days of the confederacy. It was a reminder of the confederacy, to be carried by messengers from any council as a testimonial. In going from village to village to deliver the message, whatever it might be, the ordinary method in connection with all the belts, but particularly with this one, was for the messengers to go directly to the council house and there await the coming of the chief and council. When all had assembled the ceremony was opened by lighting a pipe and passing it around the company as a formal pledge of sincerity. Next the head messenger would arise with the belt in his hands before him and deliver his set speech. The presence of the alliance belt was an absolute guarantee of attention. As long as the belt was displayed it commanded respect. The Passamaquoddy and Micmac remember how their councilmen and chiefs would kiss the belt or string that was presented to them. In short the belt had to accompany the message whether it was forwarded by the first carriers or whether it was relayed to the next village. The presentation rite was known as nimskep'skul 'tame, "to stop in and light the pipe." When it had gone the rounds of the tribes the belt would be returned to the senders."


Information Courtesy of

The Wabanaki (Eastern) Confederacy was a coalition of five Algonquian tribes of the eastern seaboard, banded together in response to Iroquois aggression. These tribes--the Abenaki, the Penobscot, the Maliseet, the Passamaquoddy, and the Mi'kmaq--each retained their own political leadership, but collaborated on broader issues such as diplomacy, war, and trade. The confederation officially disbanded in 1862, but the five tribes remain close allies, and the Wabanaki Confederacy lives on in the form of a political alliance between these historically friendly nations. 

There is some confusion associated with the term "Wabanaki." It literally means "people of the dawn" or "dawnland people," meaning easterners, and at times all five tribes of the Wabanaki Confederacy have referred to themselves this way. Also, the Mi'kmaq and Maliseet of New Brunswick collectively refer to themselves as Wabanaki, and some information about these two tribes has this name on it. Finally, the Abenaki, though their name clearly has the same Algonquian root, are not identical to the Wabanaki--they are one constituent tribe, and though a Maliseet may be referred to as a Wabanaki, he is not an Abenaki. 



Speck, Frank G. 1915. The Eastern Algonkian Wabanaki Confederacy. American Anthropologist, New Series, Vol. 17, No. 3, July-Sept., pp. 492-508.