Photographs (left to right): Sunset, Albuquerque, New Mexico; Silver Pennies, Rush, New York; Tent Rocks National Monument, New Mexico

Wampum Belt Archive

Wyandot 175th Commemorative Belt

Original: R D Hamell

July 14 2018


Beaded length: 54.0 inches by 5.5 inches. With fringe: 78 inches


337 beaded columns; Width: 11 Beads. 3,307 beads


Warp: deer leather. Weft: artificial sinew.


This Wyandot belt commemorates the 175th year marking the Wyandotte (Wyandot) removal from Michigan and Ohio. The design was a collective effort Richard Hamell, Scott Bentley (Raisin River National Battlefield Superintendent), Grand Chief Ted Roll (Wyandot of Anderdon) and Daniel Harrison (Wayne State Univ). I an indebted to Scott, Ted and Dan for their insight and assistance in creating the original belt. Scott Bentley provided the description text.

Description:  The 175th Commemorative Wampum Belt will be weaved in a purple-field emphasizing the horror and tragedies of the Wyandot losing their villages in Michigan and Ohio after an intense 58 year struggle to retain them during the period of intense Westward Expansion by the United States.  The purple-field further reminds us that the Wyandot were the last Native people forced to leave Southeast Michigan and Ohio in the wake of the U.S. Indian Removal efforts and the outermost sadness of the Wyandot as they were compelled to leave their ancestors burial grounds, homes, and way of life to an unknown future. 

On each end of the belt, fragmented pieces of the Treaty of Greenville Wampum belt are incorporated to illustrate the broken treaty and worthless words that were inscribed in it.  This symbol is shared with the 200th Commemoration belt as a powerful reminder that the United States broke every treaty ever entered into with the Wyandot, while the Wyandot honored all treaties with the U.S.  Prior to the Treaty of Greenville, the Wyandot were one Nation in the Great Lakes, and after were split into two Nations (Michigan\Upper Canada and Ohio Wyandot) who choose different paths during the War of 1812 to defend their people, lands and customs. 

The year 1843 symbolizes the year the Wyandot were herded by the United States off of their lands.  The two squares represent the Wyandot who were driven from their homes in Ohio and Michigan, regardless of which side they fought for during the War of 1812 or the diplomatic and assimilation efforts both demonstrated to retain their ancestral lands.  Faced with forced removal, Some Wyandot fled to Canada to avoid removing west, while others went to the lands promised to them by the United States in Kansas.  The thick line in the middle of the belt totals 644 beads, one for each Wyandot removed to Kansas beginning on July 12, 1843 (including 25 Wyandot from Michigan and 30 from Canada).   The two hundred purple beads surrounded by the white beads remember and honor the 200 Wyandot who walked on (perished) as a result of the harsh first two years of removal and placement in Kansas.  The 444 white beads symbolize those who survived despite the failure of the United States to provide the lands promised and abandoning the Wyandot people in Kansas in the late summer after it was too late to prepare for the coming winter.   

The turtle signifies the ancient beliefs that the world was created on the back of a turtle as one people and that while divided by the United States in the aftermath of the War of 1812, today the Wyandot people are again working together as one - resilient and strong.  The Council Fire in the middle reminds us that the Wyandot were once considered the eldest nation of the Great Lakes responsible for the sacred honor of being the keepers of the great council of nations.  After removal to Kansas, the Council was gain convened and the Wyandot were reaffirmed as the keepers of the Council Fire, an alliance that continues to prove inseparable.   The Council Fire also represents a rekindling of the Wyandot language and customs among its citizens in North America as old and new traditions are celebrated today.  The Year 2018, reminds us to remember the past, but focus on the future, a future that is bright and strong for the Wyandot.

Between each symbol on the belt there are 7 beads representing the 7 generations who came before us making our journey possible and the 7 generations to come reminding us to be good stewards of Mother Earth and to remember the lasting impacts of decisions we make today on the generations of tomorrow.