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WAMPUM  BELT – Walk the Other Way

wampum belt, wampum beads, penn treaty

 Original Wampum Belt given to William Penn by Chief Tamanend at Shackamaxon in 1682
    At a Great Treaty, Wampum Belt was 
   presented by the Lenape Indians to William  
   Penn.  They met under the prodigious Elm 
   Tree at Shackamaxon (now Fishtown), along 
   the shores of Delaware River in 1682.
   This Wampum Belt is presently in the 
   possession of Historical Society of 

   It was at this time William Penn and Chiefs 
   from Lenape tribe promised to live together 
   as brethren. This was solemnly ratified by 
   the chain of friendship and covenant marked as never to be broken, so long as the sun and moon endured.  Wampum Belt was a pledge to keep inviolate the Peace Treaty.

The Treaty of Shackamaxon – “the fairest page in American history.”



The Indian’s wealth was computed by the wampum beads. It was shell money that Lenape Indians made along Delaware River and Atlantic coast. Purple wampum beads corresponded to today’s gold.
White wampum beads represented silver.  Purple was a royal color among the Lenape Indians. The string of wampum beads were a certain number of “fathoms” long.

On the long coast of the Atlantic Ocean there was a special kind of clam, with thick shell, called quahaug.
The shell was partially white with purple heart.  Lenape Indians (Delaware Indians) grounded this purple heart out of the shell, and made of it a bead. It was a purple wampum bead – Indian gold.

On the same Atlantic coast there were shells called mussels and periwinkles., with pearly edges. The Indians used to break this shell and take out of it its heart that was white, and made of it a white wampum bead – silver.


Not only money but belts were made of these hearts of shells. Wampum belts were used as signs of war and as picture parable of amity and peace. The wampum belts of red and black or purple shells were employed in war. White and purple shells in peace.

wampum belt, wampum beads, penn treaty

Wampum Belt - from the Treaty of Love, Peace and Amity at Shackamaxon

The wampum peace belt was usually about 30 inches long. It was a handbreadth wide.
It was white, with ornamental markings of purple shells, and contained the image in purple of two figures holding hands in friendship.

The original Treaty of Shackamaxon Wampum Belt, after the death of William Penn remained among Penn family until 1857.

After this date, the Wampum Belt was brought by Granville Penn, a descendant of the founder of Pennsylvania Colony, to the city of Philadelphia.  It was presented in a noble ceremony to the city of Brotherly Love, and is now carefully guarded by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

Great Treaty Wampum Belt is the choicest treasures of the city, and should be “the jewels of the world.
What is there that counts for more than these simple shells of Wampum Belt?

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