Wampum belt to return to Wampanoag Nation in Massachusetts

Sep 28, 2021

A project of huge cultural significance, the creation of a new wampum belt by the Wampanoag People was the centrepiece of a ground-breaking exhibition titled 'Wampum: Stories from the Shells of Native America'.

Visiting key locations in Plymouth, Southampton and London, this nationally-touring exhibition was created by The Box Plymouth in partnership with Wampanoag scholars and artists.

Told by Wampanoag voices throughout, the display centred on a wampum belt created by 100 members of the Wampanoag people of the Mashpee and Aquinnah nations, which was placed alongside seven historic wampum belts on loan from the British Museum and Saffron Walden Museum.

Now, that wampum belt is preparing to return to the Wampanoag in Massachusetts USA.

Steven Peters, a tribal member of the Mashpee Wampanoag Nation, received the thanks of Mayflower 400 in Plymouth UK at a reception held at The Box on Monday 27 September.

Chair of Mayflower 400, Adrian Vinken OBE, and Steven Peters with the wampum belt

Steven has been key to the Mayflower 400 partnership, and has now been reunited with the wampum belt.

He said: "Together, with our partners in the UK, we have corrected historical inaccuracies while properly commemorating a historic event that shaped the world we live in today.

"We have forged stronger relationships while engaging the public on both sides of the water with interactive exhibitions and unique art installations.

"Art is a powerful way to tell our story - a story that involves perspective from four nations. I want to thank our partners for taking this journey with us."

Watch our short film and discover more about 'Wampum: Stories from the Shells of Native America'

Adrian Vinken, Chair of the Mayflower 400 Partnership, added: "I'd like to thank Steven and other members of the Wampanoag advisory committee for their support and partnership throughout the many years of the Mayflower 400 commemorative programme.

"Ultimately, it was their involvement and support that gave the commemoration its legitimacy and has been key to the success of the anniversary and its cultural programme.

"The Mayflower commemorative programme has had a significant impact across our international partnership, creating new cultural products and experiences here in Plymouth and across our partner locations in the UK, US and Netherlands, reaching thousands of people directly and millions online and via the media.

"It has widened the awareness of the Mayflower voyage but, more importantly, the impact of that voyage on people on the other side of the Atlantic and how it has profoundly shaped our world today.

"We could not have done that without the support of all our partners but especially our Wampanoag colleagues. Without Steven and his compatriots, we could not have realised the excellent ‘Legend & Legacy’ and ‘Wampum Belt’ projects we see here today, nor the many wider programmes that address this history more honestly and more challengingly than ever before."

Leader of Plymouth City Council, Cllr Nick Kelly, and Steven Peters with the wampum belt

Steven talked to those attending the reception about the significance of the Mayflower 400 partnership, the symbolism of the new wampum belt and its tour of the UK, as well as his work on the Legend & Legacy exhibition at The Box, Plymouth.

The Lord Mayor of Plymouth, Cllr Terri Beer, and Leader of Plymouth City Council, Cllr Nick Kelly, personally thanked Steven and the Wampanoag people for their support for Mayflower 400 and their defining contributions to commemorations on both sides of the Atlantic.

The reception was attended by dignitaries, partners and contributors to the Mayflower 400 programme, including representatives from the US Embassy and Plymouth City Council.

  • Discover more about Wampum: Stories from the Shells of Native America here.
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