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Aug. 3, 2021 | Tuesday
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Exploring Photos with the NOTL Museum: Wampum beads
Exploring photos with the Niagara-on-the-Lake Museum.

June is national Indigenous History Month and in recognition of that here is an image of a collection of wampum beads at the NOTL Museum. Wampum beads were manufactured by the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) people in a difficult and painstaking process through which small, smooth, cylindrical beads were created out of shell. The beads vary in colour, from white to a dark purple-black, and each colour had a certain value attached to it, with the darker colours being more valuable. Contrary to popular belief, wampum was not used by the Haudenosaunee as a direct form of currency, but rather as a means of exchange or barter. The beads had many uses, including as a gift or as part of treaty negotiation. Wampum belts, which consist of many beads of varying colour strung together to form complex patterns, were an important diplomatic tool among native peoples and are considered the same as a treaty. Perhaps the best known of these is known as the Hiawatha Belt, which memorializes the Iroquois Great Law of Peace, which united the original five nations, later joined by the sixth, the Tuscaroras. The Great Law represents one of the earliest forms of diplomacy and has lasted far beyond modern treaties and alliances. Wampum belts, in various patterns, were also used to seal agreements with Europeans.

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