Q&A

  • What is wampum? Is wampum currency?
    The short answer is that wampum is what is created from a quahog or whelk shell. Wampum has a significant meaning for many different tribes, as well as non-Native people. Many people think wampum is just money. In truth, furs and pelts, in addition to wampum, are some of the earliest items used for trade and exchange between Europeans and Natives, but Native people were using wampum for many purposes long before then. We provide lectures and education on the history and culture of wampum. Please Contact Us for bookings and inquiries.

  • Why is Wampum important?

It’s important to note that this is a complex question. Wampum has been used in many different ways. Some of these ways include recording history, making agreements (treaties), in ceremony, used in regalia, used to signify societal role/status, and adornment. It was also utilized as a post-colonial form of currency. 

  • Is wampum still used today?

Yes we as wampum makers and descendants of wampum makers wear our wampum as a sense of pride, but also as a way to stay connected to our ancestors, carrying on the traditions of being People of the Shell. We still use wampum in ceremonies, as well as in new wampum belts to record history. It is also used contemporarily in artwork, as well as in our regalia. It has even been used as a legal document in recent court cases.

  • Where can I find wampum?

You can typically find wampum for purchase in the Northeast USA at powwows. Check out our wampum here at our SHOP.

  • Why should I buy wampum from Native artists?

    People should buy wampum from Native artists because it is a continuation of their culture. Many artists who use wampum are helping to keep the tradition of wampum carving alive. It’s important to know who is creating your wampum because in our traditions, when somebody is making something, they put their own energy into it. For example, I never work on wampum if I’m having a bad day or if I’m sick, because I would never want somebody to wear a piece and feel that energy. Wampum has been counterfeited since the Europeans arrived to Turtle Island. By buying Native-made  wampum, you are supporting the viability of the tradition within Native cultures.

  • Do you trade?

    Yes, on a case-by-case basis. I will trade for things that I can use, or am in the market for. Some examples of things I have traded for in the past include:

    • Bulk uncooked clam shells (clean)

    • furs hides and/or pelts in good condition no slipping

    • Beadwork (beaded earrings, etc)

    • Quill work

    • Collaboration (ex: a co-created quill piece featuring my wampum pieces)


If you’re interested in options for trade, please Contact Me.

  • Where do you get the clam shells and other materials for your pieces?

    Most of my clams are sourced from Long Island, through a combination of purchasing from suppliers, trading, and occasional donations. Many of the clams I acquire still have their meat, which I use to prepare food for my family or ceremony, or I gift to people in the community. No part of the clam goes to waste.

     

  • Can non-Native people own wampum?

    Wampum has been traded between people, inter-tribally and with non-Native people, for many generations. The most important thing is having respect for the tradition, which includes supporting Native artists, as well as the waters that are home to the clams.

     

  • Is working with wampum a closed practice? Do you teach wampum carving?

    Working with wampum can be a dangerous practice. There are potentially serious health hazards that come from working with wampum. It is important for those that do work with wampum to have respect for the shell and for the traditions of the craft. It is not recommended to work with wampum without proper training, study, and respect for the art form. I do not teach people how to carve wampum.

 

  • How did you start working with wampum?

    In my younger years, I, like many Native youth, was involved in traditional arts. About seven years ago, my uncle Harry Wallace, Chief of the Unkechaug Nation and the creator of Wampum Magic, encouraged me to study the practice of wampum carving, an ancient tradition of our people. I experimented with different things, and through much trial and error, the majority of my practice comes from self-teaching and deep respect for the shell. I have spent many hours not just practicing the craft, but learning its history, and the many responsibilities that come with holding this role in our community.

  • How can I find out what tribe’s land I am on?

    Native-land.ca is a great start for researching the land that you’re on. I often suggest people use this resource as a starting point when developing Land Acknowledgments. “Whose land am I on?” is a complex question, and typically does not come with simple answers - it is important that people do their own research, and consider a variety of sources.

     

  • Where does wampum come from?


The quahog shell is native to the long island sound, Queens New England up through parts of Canada.  These areas were gifted with the dark variety of quahogs, and are prized for their beautiful purple coloration. Purple quahogs are very specific to these lands. Our people have stories of how these waters came to be gifted with these unique shells.

  • What tribes are native to Long Island, Queens, and Brooklyn?

The first thing to know is that Long Island Queens and Brooklyn is one Island. Now that you know this the original name that we used is Matouwac after first contact when the europeans came they sought to land grab through divide and conquer so they tried to break us up into what is now known as the 13 tribes or Community's of long Island. These communities are smaller places many names that are still used today Montaukett,Manhanset, Shinnecock, Unkechaug, Matinecock, Setaukets, Massapequas  Nissaquogues Corchaugs Secatogues, Rockaways, Merricks, and Canarsies. All these tribes have strong Kinship ties and if you look at the earliest maps as-well you will see this. Even early records by europeans show early contact leadership being all tribes on long Island having a sagamore who lead all long Island.