Unwritten Records: Wampum Belts

Courtesy Haudenosaunee (Onondaga Nation), Nedrow, New York.
Courtesy New York State Museum, Albany, New York

Ancient Cherokee law and governance were officially recorded in wampum belts. In diplomatic negotiations, wampum strings or belts were the standard protocol for communicating decisions.

All the major confederacies--the Iroquois, the Creek, the Cherokee--used wampum belts for diplomacy. Belts from an Iroquois confederate, the Onondaga, are shown here as illustrations. Cherokee belts are not shown due to restrictions by the Cherokee Nation.

Commentary elsewhere discusses the making and diplomatic uses of wampum belts.