Making Wampum and a Wampum Belt

photo of Wampum beads from Wikipedia
Wampum are shell beads of Eastern Woodlands tribes.

They were white and purple beads made from the quahog, or Western North Atlantic hard-shelled clam.
photo source
Woven belts of wampum have been created to commemorate treaties,  historical events, and for exchange in events such as marriages.

photo source
In colonial North America, European colonists often used wampum as currency for trading with Native Americans.

We made our own Wampum beads for trading and even wove them into a Wampum belt.
First we made the beads by dyeing two sizes of Ditalini pasta.
To dye the Ditalini, place about 2 cups of the dried pasta in a zip plastic baggie. Drop food coloring into the bag. I used the proportions of red and blue food coloring as stated on the back of the box as for dying Easter eggs.  Pour in 1 Tablespoon of Rubbing Alcohol. Now seal the bag and shake it all together. Make sure each piece of dried pasta gets coated. Pour your colored pasta out on a plate or paper towel. Food coloring can stain, so be careful. We left it to dry overnight as it needs to be completely dry before you start using it.

We made a game with the pasta Wampum by making the small white pasta worth 2 cents, the large white pasta worth 4 cents, the small purple pasta worth 5 cents and the large purple pasta worth 10 cents. We then practices counting, adding and subtracting by 2's and 5's. The boys added prices to pictures of items that the Indians and Pilgrims would have had and they each set up a store, using the Wampum as money.
At another time, we could change the amount that each type bead is worth and use them again.

To make the Wampum belt, you will need string, yarn or lanyard cord at least twice as long as the desired finished length. Find the middle point of the cord and tie a loop in it with a knot. Wrap a piece of tape on each of the ends of string to make an aglet so that the ends do not unravel.  String four small beads or two large beads onto one of the ends of the string.
Now take the string from the other side and thread it through the beads going in the same direction that you went before.

Now pull both ends so that the beads line up in a row.

Continue making rows of beads in the same way.

You can make patterns with your rows.
Continue making rows of beads until you have made your belt the desired length. Remember to leave some of the string to have an end to tie it together. When you reach the end of the belt, make a knot to make it secure so it won't unravel. Alternatively, you could tie on a jewelry fastener to make taking the belt off and on a little easier.

The boys had fun figuring out how much their Wampum belts were worth.

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