Wampum belts, all wampum belts, are so much more than artifacts or material items that people hold or museums house. Contrary to what many people think prior to the arrival of White people here on Turtle Island, Indigenous people had several modalities of traditional symbolic literacy to record and convey knowledge which included, but not limited to, such entities as birch bark scrolls, petroglyphs, petrographs, petroforms, notched sticks, and trail marker trees.
Another significant mode of symbolic literacy that Indigenous people created and relied on to record and share knowledge was and remains wampum belts. There are many significant aspects of wampum belts such as the material relied upon and the meaning inherent in the icons and symbols woven into the belts. While many people rely on the discourse of “fake”, “imitation”, and “reproduction” when they encounter wampum belts made with glass beads I do not.
It is my preference to refer to the wampum belts I re-created with glass beads − as a part of my doctoral work − as “new editions” because I know that the knowledge inherent in the icons and symbols is the lived and embodied knowledge within the hearts and minds of Indigenous people. It is my preference to stress that they are new editions because I know full well that the knowledge is very real and not fake or a reproduction. In doing this I honour the people and the knowledge they hold.
This is a part of the story that I offer people when I open my 1764 Treaty at Niagara Wampum Bundle that codifies an Indigenous understanding of Canada’s constitutional beginnings. Debwewin.
If you or your organization is interested in learning more about my Wampum Bundle and/or inviting me in to share this knowledge visit my website at www.lynngehl.com or click here: http://www.lynngehl.com/the-truth-that-wampum-tells-tour-canadas-constitutional-history-through-wampum-diplomacy.html
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Lynn Gehl, Ph.D. is an Algonquin Anishinaabe-kwe from the Ottawa River Valley. She has a section 15 Charter challenge regarding the continued sex discrimination in The Indian Act, and is an outspoken critic of the Ontario Algonquin land claims and self-government process. She has three books: Anishinaabeg Stories: Featuring Petroglyphs, Petrographs, and Wampum Belts, The Truth that Wampum Tells: My Debwewin of the Algonquin Land Claims Process, and Mkadengwe: Sharing Canada's Colonial Process through Black Face Methodology. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org and see more of her work at www.lynngehl.com