Wampum: A Vineyard Tradition

The beauty of Martha’s Vineyard is not only captured in the picturesque cliffs of Aquinnah or in a Menemsha sunset but also in the shell of a Quahog clam. Wampum, which was first created by the Wampanoag Tribe of Martha’s Vineyard, has held great historical significance to islanders and visitors alike. The deep purple beads and jewelry formed from shells are just another way the natural beauty of the island is being celebrated and preserved.

Cutting out disks of color from the shell created the beads and only a few beads could be formed from each shell. Originally, Wampum was used as a form of oral tradition among the tribe. Belts were created to help to pass on the history of the tribe and certain patterns had the potential to declare peace or initiate war.

Today, the beauty of wampum is captured in jewelry found in various stores around the island.  Whether you are buying your first piece of wampum jewelry, giving a gift or adding to your own personal collection, Wampum is a great way to take the beauty and history of Martha’s Vineyard home with you.

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