Wampum belt to return to Wampanoag Nation

Wampum belt to return to Wampanoag Nation

27 September 2021

400 years ago, the passengers of the Mayflower arrived in Native America – in the home of the Wampanoag people. 400 years on, a representative of the Wampanoag Nation is in England as a new wampum belt - that has been touring the UK - is prepared to return to the Wampanoag in Massachusetts.

Steven Peters, a tribal member of the Mashpee Wampanoag Nation received the thanks of Mayflower 400 in Plymouth, England at a reception held at The Box on Monday 27 September. Steven has been key to the Mayflower 400 partnership, which has delivered the national programme and ensured a shared history has been told for the first time. He will today be reunited with the wampum belt, made by people of the Wampanoag Nation.

This is significant, as a famous wampum belt that was brought to England more than 300 years ago has not yet been returned. The wampum belt of the Wampanoag chief Metacom, taken from his dead body, was sent to England in 1677 and went missing. It has been the subject of an intensive international search that began in late 1970 and continues to this day.

Steven Peters from the Wampanoag with the wampum belt

Steven Peters said:

Together, with our partners in the UK, we have corrected historical inaccuracies while properly commemorating a historic event that shaped the world we live in today. We have forged stronger relationships while engaging the public on both sides of the water with interactive exhibitions and unique art installations. Art is a powerful way to tell our story…a story that involves perspective from four nations. I want to thank our partners for taking this journey with us.

Commissioned to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the sailing of the Mayflower, the new wampum belt formed the central part of Wampum: Stories from the Shells of Native America – a touring exhibition co-curated by the Wampanoag people alongside The Box, Plymouth and The British Museum.

Adrian Vinken, Chair of the Mayflower 400 Partnership said:

I’d like to thank Steven and other members of the Wampanoag advisory committee for their support and partnership throughout the many years of the Mayflower 400 commemorative programme. Ultimately it was their involvement and support that gave the commemoration its legitimacy and has been key to the success of the anniversary and its cultural programme.

The Mayflower commemorative programme has had a significant impact across our international partnership, creating new cultural products and experiences here in Plymouth and across our partner locations in the UK, US and Netherlands, reaching thousands of people directly and millions online and via the media. It has widened the awareness of the Mayflower voyage but, more importantly, the impact of that voyage on people on the other side of the Atlantic and how it has profoundly shaped our world today. We could not have done that without the support of all our partners but especially our Wampanoag colleagues. Without Steven and his compatriots we could not have realised the excellent ‘Legends and Legacy’ and ‘Wampum Belt’ projects we see here today nor the many wider programmes that address this history more honestly and more challengingly than ever before.

Steven Peters with the Lord Mayor and the Leader of Plymouth City Council

Steven Peters talked to those attending the reception about the significance of the Mayflower 400 partnership, the symbolism of the new wampum belt and its tour of the UK, as well as his work on the Legend and Legacy exhibition at The Box, Plymouth.

The Lord Mayor of Plymouth, Councillor Terri Beer and Leader of Plymouth City Council. Councillor Nick Kelly, personally thanked Steven and the Wampanoag people for their support for Mayflower 400 and their defining contributions to commemorations on both sides of the Atlantic.

The reception was attended by dignitaries, partners and contributors to the Mayflower 400 programme including representatives from the US Embassy, Arts Council England and Plymouth City Council.