I’ll be there; this has been a fantastic conference.
First is "Wampum Research and Relations" with Marge Bruchac and Paula Peters @SonkWaban. @Plymouth_400
Bruchac will discuss identifying Wampum objects in museums. Has performed surveys of museums between 2014-2018 called "On the Wampum Trail" looking for and examining wampum.
Bruchac: Wampum means white shell beads. The shells live at the mouths of rivers, part fresh, part salt water. Made into beads and used as adornment. Take on a political significance when woven into belts.
Bruchac: Three different types of beads that are woven together. Flat disc beads were more common before contact and narrow tubular beads more common after. (But both were made and used before and after.)
Bruchac: White signifies ease, compliance. Purple: complicated, difficult relationships, so the ration of white to purple will indicate peaceful or fraught relationships.
Bruchac: "Belt" is an imperfect English word, they are not worn but most often held. They are not worn garments, they are political objects.
Bruchac: Hemp and leather are used to weave the belts together. Bruchac looks at the patterns, weaving methods to indicate creator, etc. They tell us a lot about Indigenous technology.
Bruchac: Older quahog indicates older materials, lighter purple are younger. Bruchac has noticed glass beads in wampum. This is not an accident, these belts are intentionally made.
Bruchac: Wampum are usually either abstract or figurative. Abstract must be explained by the creator; figurative have recognizable animals, relations, paths. Wampum is an English word adapted from "Kahionni".
Bruchac: Dish with one spoon belt design = communicates intertribal agreement to work collaboratively, care for animals, beings, land in a shared ecosystem.
Bruchac: Belts communicate through symbolism and figures. They are not meant to be perfect, they are very individual.
Bruchac: These wampum belts do not belong in museums. Their meanings are lost, the context is gone, separated from community they belong to. Often misidentified as currency or art.
Bruchac: Uses restorative research methods to research and teach about these lost objects. Often in museums or in online collections. How was it possible for these objects to have become art, isolated, disconnected from their origins?
Bruchac: Tactics included removal, detribalization, concealment, museumification, display, exoticization. If it's a museum object, it belongs to everyone. Separate it from its owners, removing its meaning and make it mysterious. Detaching it from meaning, makers, etc.
Bruchac: Museums display the wampum for a wow factor, without in depth information about the wampum. Must create relationships with curators, museums, Native nations that the objects are connected to in order to identify, repatriate.
Bruchac uses restorative methodologies - object analysis, critical scholarship, object cartography, and archival research. May seem obvious, but these are often not done when people believe the meaning, origin of wampum are unrecoverable.
Bruchac: Use relational insights instead of strategic alienation. Re-interrogate narratives of museums and primary source material. Indigenous objects can speak for themselves and tell us where they belong.
Bruchac: When items end up in museums, their origins and stories are often lost. Bruchac is recovering these stories through relational research. Goal is to get the belts back into Native hands whenever possible.
Bruchac: Searching for Metacom's (King Philip's) wampum. A wampum did exist, there are secondhand accounts but they aren't as clear as they could've been. Don't know what it looked like.
Bruchac: Metacom dies in 1676. Bruchac using colonial records to trace Metacom's wampum. Apparently it was lost in shipping after Metacom's death. Narratives say it might be part of a museum collection or hidden in British Museum.
Bruchac: Strategic alienation can be intentional and malicious but can also be casual, when people feel they don't need to go further in looking for items, or examining origins.
Bruchac traveled to some British museums looking for the belt. Looked at all the wampum she could. Museum identification can be very imprecise. At times, items are misclassified as wampum. Some wampum described as currency or not preserved well.
Bruchac: Wampum often thought of and described in museums as decorative or currency, but it was currency second. Strings of wampum are usually communication objects or condolence beads. So many beaded objects are described as wampum when they are not.
Bruchac: These objects need additional investigation but not in colonial manners. Indigenous people must listen to the objects. They are meant to live in communities in which they were made. They are silenced in museums. They were meant to connect Indigenous communities.
Paula Peters @SonkWaban will talk more about the search for Metacom's belt and restoring traditions. Metacom was a leader defined by the colonization of his people. He learned to become a warrior for his people. After his death, the belt was taken as a spoil of war.
Peters: Metacom's belt is thought of as a treasure of Wampanoag peoples. It can tell of their history, many people would've contributed to the construction of the belt. Traveled to the archives of the British Museum to see the wampum but was skeptical.
Peters was able to say prayers over the belts in British museums in the Wampanoag language. It would've been the first time in hundreds of years that they had heard their own language.
Peters: Wampanoag peoples gathered together to discuss what the belt may look like, how it may have been made. A project created to make a belt. Wampanoag beadmakers, wavers, and others all participated in a belt making project at the 2019 Mashpee Wampanoag pow wow.
Peters: Belt traveled to many different events where lots of Wampanoag were able to help. Over 100 people were able to participate in the making of the belt. Wampum belt is never finished because there are more stories to be told.
Peters: Belt sent to Britain to tour a variety of places. It was sent with a medicine bag for protection and health. Peters wrote the text of the traveling exhibit. Beautiful community photos and histories included. Funded by the British Arts Council.
Peters: Despite the pandemic, the UK tour continues. Belt will ultimately be restored back to the Wampanoag. Goal is to educate the British people about Metacom's belt, about wampum, and about the importance of repatriation of these items to their original creators.
Peters: Belt is 4.5 feet long with room to grow. Has over 10k beads that were made by 12 Wampanoag beadmakers.
On the Wampum Trail website: wampumtrail.wordpress.com
Peters: Not a specific plan for the belt to tour the US at this time. Must consult with the community first. Need to balance ability to be shown but also be a part of the living community. There are times when the leaders should be carrying it, for it to be in community contact.
Peters: Thinking about the role of a "belt keeper", someone who ensures the belt is stored properly and that it can be shown and respected. Must balance the Wampanoag community needs with education of larger community.
Bruchac: Salvage anthropology and museumification is built on white supremacy and settler colonial supremacy. Scholars often argued Native peoples were incompetent and unable to keep their own objects. Used many excuses to steal Native cultural objects.
Peters: Making the belt and documenting the process took about a year. Had contributors record their participation.
Bruchac: There are ways to analyze beads but they are destructive or invasive. Is working on better photographic methods. Might be impossible to track the whelk or quahog to determine where the beads may have come from.
Bruchac: Museums are developing better ways to reach out to Indigenous communities to broaden consultations & relationships. British Museum is not the culprit in losing Metacom's wampum, it was the English system more broadly that failed.
Bruchac: Metacom's belt might have been hidden, might have been broken up into pieces, may have been sold. British Museum is now an ally to help us find it. Wampum is specifically Eastern, didn't often makes its way west.
Peters: Hoping the search for wampum and the education of people about wampum will deepen connections between tribes and communities. COVID has disrupted the travel of the belt back to the Wampanoag. The belt is still doing its job in the UK.
For more information on wampum, the belt, the search for Metacom's wampum: mayflower400uk.org/wampum-stories…
That was a tremendously educational session! Thanks to @joyce_rain18, Linda Coombs, Marge Bruchac, @SonkWaban, @Plymouth_400, @BridgeStateU for putting it together!
Next up is Reconnections: Bringing Family Home with Paula Peters @SonkWaban and Terlena Murphy. @Plymouth_400
Terlena Murphy is the chair of the St David's Islanders and Native Community of Bermuda. They knew there was a Native American connection but weren't sure what it was for a long time. In 1616 a "Native" was brought to Bermuda dive for pearls; there are no pearls in Bermuda.
Murphy: In 1636 slaves recorded as "Native" brought into Bermuda. Divided up on the island and worked as domestics, ship workers, builders, or farmers. Documented as "cargo".
Murphy: St David's Island is a close community, part of Bermuda (not part of the Caribbean). They farm, fish, are self-sufficient. Didn't know where there Native heritage derived from but the term "Mohawk" was used. Actually a mixed Native heritage.
Murphy: Native peoples of St David's began to mix with others and descendants soon were referred to as "colored". Census records as far back as 1760s and ship manifests indicate Native arrival at St David's.
Murphy: Rich history, culture, and sea faring traditions on St. David's. Jacob Minors was a prominent 19th century figure on St David's and some islanders can trace their lineage to him and his descendants.
Murphy: When looking for roots, Murphy's mother and uncle connected with Tall Oak in the northeast who was also looking for ancestors. Connection formed and Tall Oak traveled to St. David's several times.
Murphy: Minors family reunion organized in 1997. Reconnection Committee organized and the first Reconnection Festival held in 2002. Reconnection is important to educate ourselves and community. Actively learning about their heritage. Pow wows are now held every other year.
Murphy: Mission of St David's Islanders and Native Community Committee is to preserve, illustrate, exhibit, and promote the unique heritage of St David's Island as well as other cultures in Bermuda. Also looking to obtain a permanent space for donated cultural materials.
Murphy: Credits Tall Oak, David Weeden, and other Mashpee Wampanoag for the strength of their pow wows, education, and growing social community.
Paula Peters (@SonkWaban) will now discuss the reconnection. Tall Oak is one of her mentors. Had heard there was a connection between her tribe and natives who were sent to Bermuda.
Peters: Was a journalist for the Cape Cod Times and covered St. David's first reconnection ceremony. "Journalist first, Wampanoag always." Her sister said to cousins on St. David's, "You are not lost, we have been searching for you for 300 years."
Peters: They all shared songs, stories, connections. She did five stories in 2002 for the Cape Cod Times on the reconnection. capecodtimes.com/article/200207…
Peters: Discusses spade tooth that Bermudan kids had that only Indigenous peoples had. Bermudan government wanted to hide this connection but Peters reported on it. capecodtimes.com/article/200207…
Peters: Minors family believe they descended from Metacom (King Philip). Brown Univ scholars found written evidence that Metacom's son was indeed abducted, taken to Bermuda, and left there, perhaps with his mother.
Peters: The communities continue to share traditions and stories. They continue to have pow wows in St. David's and celebrate their shared past. St. David's peoples also travel to Mashpee. Another article: capecodtimes.com/article/200207…
Peters: Faces not put on corn husk and banana leaf dolls because they are made from live materials created by the Maker and to put a face on them would be like putting a mask on them.
Another article by Paula Peters @SonkWaban capecodtimes.com/article/200207…
Peters has written a book (Mashpee Nine: A Story of Cultural Justice) and made a documentary about the Mashpee Nine - 9 Wampanoag men brutally arrested who were ultimately exonerated of their alleged "crime".
Thanks to the Wampanoag Advisory Committee, @BridgeStateU, @Plymouth_400, Linda Coombs, @joyce_rain18, Terlena Murphy, and Paula Peters @SonkWaban for this touching session!

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