Wampum: Stories from the Shells of Native America

Wampum: Stories from the Shells of Native America

An exhibition that united contemporary indigenous artists and educators in the USA with museums and historic collections in Britain as part of the 2020-2021 Mayflower 400 commemorations.

Told by Wampanoag voices throughout, 'Wampum: Stories from the Shells of Native America' explored the cultural history of the Wampanoag, their life in America today, their creative aspirations for the future as well as the impact of the colonial past.

Wampum belts are stories of communities and culture made from the sacred shells of Native America. The exhibition centred on a new wampum belt created by the Wampanoag, alongside historic material from British museums. Together, they explored the history, art and culture of the Native Americans who met the passengers of the Mayflower and ensured their survival.

Close up of part of the detail from the new wampum belt on display at The Box

The people who participated in the making of the new wampum belt are sharing the story in the age-old oral tradition of the Wampanoag. The White Pine in the center tells our creation story - that we came from her roots more than 12,000 years ago to become the people of the dawn. This belt will preserve our stories for many generations of Wampanoag to come.

Paula Peters, SmokeSygnals and Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Nation

'Wampum: Stories and Shells from Native America' was a local, national and international project. Created on both sides of the Atlantic, the exhibition connected the US and the UK, Wampanoag artists and English audiences, the past and the present. It also looked to the future and to a new relationship across the ocean.

'Wampum: Stories from the Shells of Native America' also toured to SeaCity Museum in Southampton in 2020 and the Guildhall Art Gallery in London in 2021. It was presented by The Box in partnership with SmokeSygnals, Massachusetts and supported by Arts Council England as part of the Mayflower 400 commemorations.

The new wampum belt on display at The Box

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