Wampum beads

Cultural Narrative: 

Wampum beads are shell beads that were originally associated with indigenous groups from the eastern United States. These beads have served various purposes, including being used for record keeping purposes of important or historical events, as ceremonial objects, and as currency. Research notes that when wampum beads were eventually introduced to Native American tribes in the western United States, including the Nimíipuu (Nez Perce), they were primarily used for personal decoration or ceremonial purposes. These is evidence that Nimíipuu (Nez Perce) peoples used wampum beads for record keeping purposes, too, as noted by Penahwenonmi's (Helping Another's) use of wampum beads in her calendar string. She used a wampum bead to represent the death of her husband, Nimíipuu (Nez Perce) warrior húusus 'ewyíin (Wounded Head).

Wampum beads can be either white or purplish/black shells. This string of wampum beads is white and 27 cm in diameter. Evidence suggests this string of wampum beads was used by L. V. McWhorter, but it is unknown how they came into his possession or their specific purpose. It is undetermined when L.V. McWhorter acquired or was given this string of wampum beads, but it was likely in the early 1900s due to the time period he lived in the state of Washington.

This string of wampum beads is in the upper left hand corner of the photograph and is cataloged as 1986.2.25. Additional items in the photograph include, a comb or berry picker/stripper (1986.2.77) in the lower left hand corner of the photograph and a bead embroidered comb/berry picker/stripper in the upper right hand corner of the photograph (1986.2.76). The additional pipe and two white spines in the middle of the photograph do not belong to the L.V. McWhorter Artifact Collection.