Some Huron Treaty Belts

American Section

By: F.G.S.

Originally Published in 1911

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Several visits which I made among the Huron Indians at Loretto, P. Q., near Quebec, sonic years ago, gave me the opportunity of studying the decorative art and manufactures of these interesting descendants of one of the most prominent tribes. One of the chiefs possessed a handsome belt of white wampum which commemorated some treaty of long ago. Inquiries into the subject, based largely upon the material in the Heye collection, have since resulted in the assembling of some interesting material on the subject.

The historic Hurons are now represented by two main bands, one in Oklahoma known as the Wyandots, the other at Lorette, while some few are to be found in Ontario, near Detroit. Both of the main bands seem to be increasing quite rapidly. The Wyandots have increased from 251 in 1883 to 378 in 1905, and the Hurons of Lorette now number 478 as against 293 in 1890. Intermarriages with Algonkins of the Gatineau River, Abenakis of St. Francis, Malisits of Cacouna, and Montagnais of Lake St. John have, however, been quite frequent. The Hurons since they were first encountered by Champlain and the Jesuits, in what is now the Georgian Bay country in Ontario, have occupied an active place in the history of both the United States and Canada. The Iroquois at an early period began the devastation of their country until by 1650 the confederated tribes of the Hurons were broken and some driven westward to Lake Superior, while others sought refuge with the French Jesuits near Quebec. Many Christian missions had already been founded among them. The western exiles became known in history as the Wyandots. From point to point they pressed southwestward, encountering successively the Sac .and Fox, and Sioux who. brooked no intrusion into their range. After the varied vicissitudes of frontier life through Michigan, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois the Wyandots found a home in Kansas and later Oklahoma. The rough treatment they suffered developed their fighting qualities which earned for them a prominent share in the Indian conspiracies of Pontiac and Tecumseh. The career of the eastern exiles was not much different in nature. The Iroquois continued to harass them even under the guns of Quebec, until as an old Huron woman declared, “My friend, the paths of our village ran with our blood.”

Fig. 21—Huron wampum belts. Heye Collection.

As memories of these tumultuous days among the Hurons a few of the treaty belts of shell wampum beads woven on leather have been preserved to posterity.

The upper belt shown in Fig. 21 is of white shell wampum thirty-one inches long and four inches wide, with two human representations hand in hand in purple wampum. This was obtained from the wife of a Wyandot chief in Oklahoma, and, while actual data is entirely lacking, appears to have been made in commemoration of peace between two peoples. The other belt, happily, is accompanied by more information which states that the central square represents the Huron nations; the purple stripes at the ends designate people and the white designates ..peace, ..meaning that the .people of two nations, the Hurons and Iroquois, walk together in unity. This belt, which is twenty-six inches long and two and a half wide, was obtained from Atowa Tohonadiheto (an Iroquois) in 1903. It is said to have been presented by the Hurons to the Iroquois at a treaty in 1612 at the headwaters of the Ottawa River, Canada.


F. G. S.

Cite This Article

F.G.S.,. "Some Huron Treaty Belts." The Museum Journal II, no. 1 (March, 1911): 26-27. Accessed July 15, 2024.

This digitized article is presented here as a historical reference and may not reflect the current views of the Penn Museum.

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