Iakonikohnrio Tonia Loran-Galban


Listen to Jolene Rickard on the Women’s Nomination Belt


[Speaking Tuscarora] My name is Jolene Rickard. The Curatorial Advisors from the northeast felt it was important to have a wampum belt included in the exhibit as part of an understanding and to deepen the understanding of our relationship to the notion of a bead, and why beadwork is so significant. And it really comes from our deep relationship to wampum. And so wampum actually goes back to the Beginning Story, it is part of the Creation Story, it’s part of the [] or the Great Law or [] in Tuscarora. It is the moment where the Peacemaker consoles Hiawatha for the loss of his daughters.

And so the actual materiality of wampum is today recognized as the quahog shell, but at that moment, it was a concept. The material could have been a sumac hollowed out, it could have been a bird bone, and then it finally transitioned to these shells.

Bringing a wampum belt into the exhibit was appropriate in that it’s about relationship building, and that’s really a huge role of – perhaps the primary role of – wampum, as a political signifier. And so the relationship of the role that women in the confederacy have to wampum is best demonstrated through the women’s nomination belt, which is a reproduction. And so it stands in for or represents the women’s nomination belt. And the women’s nomination belt, which is currently held by the Senecas, is a significant symbol because it really demonstrates that in the formation of leadership in the confederacy, it’s actually women that have the authority to decide who the leaders are, because that’s what that belt signifies.

I think it’s important today to acknowledge that we struggle with this because of the impact of patriarchal practices that have found their way into our communities. We’re working towards reclaiming the complete authority of our role as co-partners in Haudenosaunee leadership, and that’s what this belt represents.


Mia does not yet have a Native-language translation of this text.


This is a precise re-creation of the “Woman’s Nomination Belt,” a document authorizing the clan mother to nominate and guide the male leaders of her clan and the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Confederacy. The original is still in use today, and it is one of the most important wampum belts in Haudenosaunee and U.S. history. Jigonhsaseh, the first clan mother, helped found the Haudenosaunee government and its oral constitution, the Great Law, or Kayanerehkowa, which is said to have inspired the framers of the U.S. Constitution. This version of the Women’s Nomination Belt was made by Haudenosaunee artist Tonia Loran-Galban, who was given the right to depict it.