What are Mohegan art and crafts like?
The Mohegan tribes were known for their beadwork and basketry.
Like other eastern American Indians, Mohegans also crafted
wampum out of white and purple shell beads. Wampum beads were
traded as a kind of currency, but they were more culturally
important as an art material. The designs and pictures on wampum
belts often told a story or represented a person's family.
Native American Beadwork
Originally, Native American beads were carved from shells, coral,
turquoise and other stones, copper and silver, wood, amber, ivory, and
animal bones, horns, and teeth.
Glass beads were not used until the colonists brought them from
Europe 500 years ago, but like horses, they quickly became part of
American Indian culture.
Today glass beads, particularly fine seed beads, are the primary
materials for traditional beaders of many tribes.
There are as many different Native American beading traditions,
designs, styles and stitches as there are tribes and nations.
Beads were a common trade item since ancient times, so it wasn't
surprising to see abalone shells from the west coast in Cherokee
beadwork or quahog wampum from the east coast in Ojibway
beadwork, even before the Europeans arrived and forced tribes into
closer contact with each other.
The Great Chain, or Covenant Belt, is generally thought to be a belt presented by the
U.S. government to the Iroquois in 1794 at the Pickering Treaty at Canandaigua, N.Y.
The human figures, each li nked by a wampum belt, form a chain of friendship,
representing the alliance between the thirteen states and the Iroquoian confederacy.
Adapted from The Native Americans. Edited by B. & I. Ballantine. 1993.