Wampum is the most important bead in American history and no doubt the most written about bead anywhere. It was not "Indian money," but was used as money by the European settlers, who lacked coins. It was legal tender in all 13 original states and was still being regulated as a currency into the 18th century.
The first two wars Britain fought in the Americas was over this bead: the Pequot War of 1637 and the war with the Dutch when England took over New Amsterdam (now New York).
To the Native Americans, especially the powerful Iroquois League, wampum was sacred. It had been given to them by Hiawatha, founder of the League and was needed for every public action to be validated.
On The Bead Site is the Wampum story, the best book on wampum. pictures of the beads and one of the shells used to make it, a remarkable wampum belt in the Denver Museum of Natural History and a riotous account of "Wampum Island" by humorist Russell Baker.
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