Belt, beaded, indigenous peoples North America



This belt is known as the ‘Belt of the Grand Alliance’ and is thought to be connected to an inter-tribal meeting held at Fort Machilimackinac between Sioux and Anishinaabe Tribes in the summer of 1775. The wampum belt takes its name from the tiny shell beads strung together to make patterns and pictures, in traditional cobalt and white wampum beads. Such belts were used by Indigenous North American Chiefs to illustrate and record treaties at tribal meetings, communicating intent and reinforcing a speech. The belts acted as a record of what was said and what was agreed. One of De Peyster’s main roles was to protect and maintain the fur trade between the British and local Indigenous North American Tribes due to the outbreak of hostilities with the American rebels, and to maintain their allegiances with Britain. The skirted figures on the belts are thought to represent the long-coated soldiers. The figures with clasped hands (not soldiers) would suggest that De Peyster was successful in negotiating peace among the Tribes. Comprising of thirty-one rows of imitation wampum glass beads strung on vegetable fibre threads with a course warp and a fine weft. The weft is doubled and the two threads pass over and under the warp, between every two beads. The design includes four groups of three figures clasping hands, apparently representing peaceful union, separated by rows of checkered diamonds of different sizes. Three of the twelve figures are skirted representing, it has been suggested, the long-tailed coats of the British. This belt has been examined by experts and the ‘wampum’ beads have been identified as very good glass copies. For a belt actually used in diplomatic negotiations, the use of glass imitation wampum is highly unusual. It has been suggested that this particular belt was only a commemorative copy made for Colonel De Peyster. The checkered diamond shapes are very common on non-ceremonial glass wampum artefacts of the late eighteenth century. It is possible that De Peyster had this copy of the belt made on his return to England to commemorate his activities in the Great Lakes region.