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HAL learns about wampum belts


Wed, Apr 14th 2021 01:40 pm

The Historical Association of Lewiston’s April program is “The History and Reproduction of Wampum Belts.” Richard Hamell will present this event at 7 p.m. Thursday, April 22, at the First Presbyterian Church, 505 Cayuga St., Lewiston.

Hamell’s presentation will describe the history of wampum and its vital role in trade, diplomacy and as treaty documents, some of which still stand today. Though wampum had a monetary value, its sole purpose for the colonials was by no means limited to an economic role.

To the Native Americans, wampum was used for a multitude of purposes – not least of which was the binding truth to words “written” in wampum. So respected and important was it that an accompanying belt of wampum gave great solemnity to messages, speeches and agreements. A message delivered via a wampum belt is said to have been greater than a thousand words and it was accepted as truth. It was the seal – the proof of covenants made.

Hamell retired from Monroe Community College in 2008 after a career of 39 years with the department of geosciences. He continues sharing geology programs within the communities, including the several indigenous cultural and historic centers in New York, Pennsylvania and Michigan. This particular subject of personal interest concerns the history and reproduction of wampum belts. Hamell has completed more than 120 different reproduction wampum belts, probably the largest collection of its kind. Photographs of his wampum belts have appeared in several publications: Iroquois: People of the Longhouse; Journal of Ethnohistory; Strong Stories – Two-Row Wampum; and other educational material. In 2016, he was honored by being adopted by the Peter Jemison (Seneca) and given the name: Haswe:donih – he makes wampum.

This community event is free and open to all. Guests can use the back entrance next to the church parking lot. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all present must wear appropriate facial covering and practice social distancing during the presentation. Hand sanitizer will be available. There will be a 100-person seating limitation. There will be no refreshments served at this meeting.

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