Photographs (left to right): Mohave Desert, California; Mohave Desert, Nevada; Mt. Charleston, California

Wampum Belt Archive


Wyandot-Huron Four Nations Alliance Belt


Pitt Rivers Museum, Univ. Oxford, England 1896.7.10

Reproduction R. D. Hamell August 25, 2014

Original Size:
Beaded Length: 37.0 inches. Width: 3.1 inches
Beaded Length: 44.5 inches. Width: 4.75 inches/ W/fringe: 68.5 inches
Rows: 270 by 10 rows wide. Total 2,700
Warp: leather. Weft: artificial sinew.


Belt collected at the Anderdon Wyandot Reserve near Amberstburg, Ontario, in the late nineteenth century. The belt was obtained by Horatio Hale from Chief Joseph White, who provided the information about its content. It was subsequently purchased by Professor Sir E. B. Tylor, who donated it to the Pitt Rivers Museum in February 1896.

Harrison suggest the "French speech belt" and the Huron Four Nations belt being one and the same is a pretty good one. Read "The Journey French Commandant Narrative below.

Consider: "the marks of towns" referred to by the French general could refer to both the native villages and the French fortified town.  When asked by Horatio hale about the markings at the end of the Four Nations belt, Chief Joseph White said they were "white peoples' houses" (Hale 1897:241).

That's consistent with this earlier interpretation. Collectively, all the markings refer to the habitations of the five parties to the alliance.



The notable difference between this and the three preceding belts marks a wide chasm of time and a great change of locality and condition. The latest date which can be ascribed to the Jesuit missionary belt is the year 1648, the eve of the expulsion of the Hurons by the Iroquois. The date fixed for the " Four-Nations Belts," by Peter Clarke, in the second decade of the eighteenth century. This belt is consequently younger than the Jesuit belt by over sixty years. During, that period the Tionolitate people, now known as Wyandots, had fled from the Blue Hills of their Lake ITuron Switzeiland (sic) to the far west of Lake Superior, and had thence returned to the vicinity of Detroit, as already related. Here they were welcomed not only by the French garrison and settlers of that post, but also by the three Algonquian tribes who held the lands in the vicinity, the Ojibwas, Ottawas, and Potawatomies. An alliance was formed between these four nations, the terms wlich are carefully set forth by its Wyandot chronicler. It was mainly a treaty respecting lands, which will account for the shape of the figures.

This wampum belt belonged to the Hurons. It was made of commercial trade wampum beads in the Detroit area in the 18th century. The 4 squares represent the 4 nations of the area, Huron, Potawatomi, Ottawa and Ojibwa under the protection of the French as represented by the black beads at each end.

PRMO Cat No 1896.7.10. Gift of E. B. Taylor in 1896. Collected by Horatio Hale from Chief Joseph White at Anderdon Reserve, Ontario.


Journey to the French Commandant: Narrative

51. Gist’s diary entry for this day reads:

“Wednesday 5.—Rain all day. Our Indians were in council with the Delawares, who lived under the French colors, and ordered them to deliver up to the French the belt, with the marks of the four towns, according to the desire of King Shingiss. But the chief of these Delawares said, ‘It was true King Shingiss was a great man, but he had sent no speech, and,’ said he, ‘I cannot pretend to make a speech for a King.’ So our Indians could not prevail with them to deliver their belt; but the Half-King did deliver his belt, as he had determined. Joncaire did every thing he could to prevail on our Indians to stay behind us, and I took all care to have them along with us” (GIST, 82).

He inform’d me that they had built two Forts, one on Lake Erie, & another on French Creek,42 near a small Lake about 15 Miles asunder, & a large Waggon Road between; they are both built after the same Model, but different in the Size; that on the Lake the largest; he gave me a Plan of them of his own drawing. The Indians enquir’d very particularly after their Brothers in Carolina Goal.43 They also ask’d what sort of a Boy it was that was taken from the South Branch; for they had, by some Indians heard, that a Party of French Indians had carried a White Boy by the Cuscusa Town, towards the Lakes.44

26th: We met in council at the Long House, about 9 o’Clock, where I spoke to them as follows,

brothers I have call’d you together in Council, by Order of your Brother the Governor of Virginia, to acquaint you that I am sent with all possible Dispatch to visit & deliver a Letter to the French Commandant of very great Importance to your Brothers the English: & I dare say to your their Friends & Allies. I was desir’d Brothers, by your Brother the Governor, to call upon you, the Sachems of the Six Nations, to inform you of it, & to ask your Advice & Assistance to proceed the nearest & best Road to the French. You see Brothers I have got thus far on my Journey. His Honour likewise desir’d me to apply to you for some of your young Men to conduct and provide Provisions for us on our Way: & to be a Safeguard against those French Indians, that have taken up the Hatchet against us. I have spoke this particularly to you Brothers, because His Hon. our Governor, treats you as good Friends & allies, & holds you in great Esteem. To confirm what I have said I give you this String of Wampum.

After they had considered some Time on the above, the Half King got up & spoke.

now my brothers. In Regard to what my Brother the Governor has desir’d of me, I return you this Answer. I rely upon you as a Brother ought to do, as you say we are Brothers, & one People. We shall put Heart in Hand, & speak to our Fathers the French, concerning the Speech they made to me, & you may depend that we will endeavour to be your Guard.

brother, as you have ask’d my Advice, I hope you will be ruled by it, & stay ’til I can provide a Company to go with you. The French Speech Belt is not here, I have it to go for to my hunting Cabbin likewise the People I have order’d are not yet come, nor can ’til the third Night from this, ’till which Time Brother I must beg you to stay. I intend to send a Guard of Mingoes, Shawnesse, & Delawar’s, that our Brothers may see the Love and Loyalty We bear them.

As I had Orders to make all possible Dispatch, & waiting here very contrary to my Inclinations; I thank’d him in the most suitable Manner I cou’d, & told that my Business requir’d the greatest Expedition, & wou’d not admit of that Delay: He was not well pleas’d that I shou’d offer to go before the Time he had appointed, & told me that he cou’d not consent to our going without a Guard, for fear some Accident shou’d befall us, & draw a reflection upon him—besides says he, this is a Matter of no small Moment, & must not be enter’d into without due Consideration, for I now intend to deliver up the French Speech Belt, & make the Shawnesse & Delawars do the same, & accordingly gave Orders to King Singess, who was present, to attend on Wednesday Night with the Wampum, & two Men to their Nation to be in readiness to set off with us next Morning. As I found it impossible to get off without affronting them in the most egregious Manner, I consented to stay.

About 10 oClock they met in Council, the King spoke much the same as he had done to the General, & offer’d the French Speech Belt which had before been demanded, with the Marks of four Towns in it, which Monsieur Joncaire refused to receive; but desired him to carry it to the Fort to the Commander.

See the website for compelete transcript.



Dunnigan, Brian Leigh. 2001. Frontier Metropolis Picturing Early Detroit, 1701-1838. Great Lakes Books, 247pp.

Hale, Horatio. 1897. Four Huron Wampum Records: A Study of Aboriginal American History and Mnemonic Symbols. Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland. Vol. 26, pp. 221-247.