Thursday, June 20, 2019

Wampum Workshop in the Dawn Lands Aims to Decolonize Commerce Trade and Title in New England

Hartman Deetz (Mashpee Wampanoag) Photo by Teko Photography
Wampum Workshop in the Dawn Lands Aims to Decolonize Commerce Trade and Title in New England 

By Hartman Deetz
Censored News

BOSTON -- Divest Invest Protect in partnership with Ockway Bay Wampum, and The North American Indian Center of Boston (NAICOB) is excited to announce the launch of its public education series called “The Beads That Bought Manhattan.” This project will create light sculptures and projections, printed speculative indigenous currency, and a UN Declaration on the Rights Of Indigenous Peoples wampum treaty belt as a means to spark a global conversation on value, capital, natural resources, and indigenous economic human rights in a time of climate crisis.
The Wampum Workshop lead by artist Hartman Deetz will work with seven indigenous apprentices in the manufacture wampum and the exploration of indigenous pre-colonial law, customs, and economic systems.

Divest Invest Protect is honored to be uplifting and working with: Victoria Maranda - Mashpee, Andre Gaines - Nipmuc, Tracy Holmes - Aquinnah, Lilah Akin - Penobscott, Maggie Conners - St. Regis Mohawk, Melvin Coombs - Mashpee and Rena Maliszewski - Rappahannock.
Victoria Miranda Wampanoag states, “My people once used wampum as a form of economic exchange, but for us its significance runs deeper than just its economic use. As with many tribes, the land that we inhabit shapes our tribal culture. For my tribe, we center around the ocean and the water. The water is how we survived as it blessed and continues to bless my people with enumerable gifts to include wampum. Wampum has become a symbol of my people and a symbol of the many blessing that we get from the water.” -
The workshops aim to reconnect to indigenous knowledge and customs in order to imagine an economic future for humanity that doesn’t center the banks of Wall Street. The workshop uses Wampum as a means of decolonizing value, wealth, trade, and economic rights to protect, restore, and revitalize indigenous peoples knowledge and visions of law, justice, and economy.
Wampum is the bead cut from the Quahog shell, its distinctive purple and white bands create beautiful natural diversity in the material, which can be smoothed to a high polished shine. The Quahog clam is geographically limited to the coastal waters between Maine and Long Island and was harvested for food and made into jewelry by the coastal peoples of the North Eastern region. Culturally Wampum was used as far south as the Carolinas, inland throughout the Great Lakes region and north into the Canadian Maritimes. Small tubular beads were woven into “belts” creating patterns by alternating between purple and white beads. These “Wampum Belts” were often created as treaties between Tribal Nations and held value beyond the material, these beads also symbolized ongoing commitments to reciprocity. The Wampum bead was more than just a bead, it was also a promise, a memory, a sacred language of the past and future.

Wampum Workshop Spring 2019. L to R: students Anrdre Gains, Tracy Holmes, and Victoria Miranda.

Wampum in process of being made by student Andre Gaines, Nipmuc, 2019

Hartman Deetz of the Mashpee Wampanoag states, “One of the colonial narratives of the American mythology has always been the story of buying the island of Manhattan, what would become the economic center of the nation, and for a time the world; for a string of beads. These beads were not simply beads, they were Wampum, a means of exchange that carried value beyond the count on the string. Wampum is imbued with a promise of reciprocity, a gift that comes with strings attached, that declares good faith not only in the exchange but in the ongoing promise of mutual respect between distinct groups of people. This is why Wampum was required in land transactions and marriages, because it was not simply a transaction of property, but entering into a relationship with a family community, with the land and its inhabitants. The concepts in bedded in Wampum speak to a different world view on property, value and wealth. Revitalizing traditional knowledge and craft surrounding Wampum is critical for cultural survival, and the passing of knowledge to future generations.”
Huge thank you to NAICOB, Proteus Fund, and individual supporters for helping make this wampum workshop happen!
For more information on the Beads That Bought Manhattan project and the Wampum Workshop contact: Hartman Deetz,

Colonial Era Wampum Belt, Peabody Museum, Boston Massachusetts, April 2019

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