Wampum is created from the shell of a clam. The bead is cut from
the white and purple parts of the shell. The shell is thought of as a living
record. The speaker puts the words of the agreement into the
wampum. Each speaker thereafter uses the wampum to remember the initial
agreement and the history that has happened to date.
Wampum has many uses. One of the uses is to invite the
other nations to meetings. These wampum strings are given the topic that
all of the nations are to meet and discuss about. At the end of the wampum
string is a wooden stick. The wooden stick tells the people of the nation
when the meeting is to take place. As each day passes, a notch is cut
off the stick and when the notches are all gone, the meeting will take
Wampum also symbolizes titles within the Haudenosaunee. Each position
of a Clan Mother of a Chief has their own wampum string. When a person
holds this title for the Nation, they carry the wampum to show their
place in the community. When a leader falls, the wampum is passed on
to the new leader.
When a string of wampum that is held in a person's hand, they are said
to be speaking truthfully. During ceremonies, the wampum
strings are used to convey that the speaker's words are true. People
listening to a speaker holding the wampum also know this and are very
attentive and respectful of the speaker's message.
Wampum is very important to the Onondaga and the Haudenosaunee. Therefore
when the wampum left the community through the efforts of anthropologists,
the Onondaga Nation worked diligently to have the wampum
return. In 1989, some belts returned after the determined efforts
of the chiefs to bring these belts back to the people.