Neyuheruke Wampum

One of the most exciting events of the Neyuheruke 300 commemoration was the surprise presentation of an entirely new wampum–the Neyuheruke Wampum–by the Tuscarora Nation to create a tangible, but also indelibly memorable reminder of this important occasion in Tuscarora and North Carolina history.

Presented to the “People of North Carolina” at East Carolina University
at the opening ceremonies of Neyuheruke 300

On 21 March 2013–the 300th anniversary of  the culminating battle in 1713 of North Carolina’s bloody Tuscarora War –the Tuscarora Nation presented its first official wampum in more than 200 years at East Carolina University.  The auspiciousness of the occasion was highlighted by the fact that the last Tuscarora wampum was presented to President George Washington.

Fabricated by Tuscarora  and Iroquois craftsmen and artisans from the New York reservation where the Tuscarora Nation is now located, the Neyuheruke wampum was designed to commemorate the loss of more than nine hundred Tuscarora men, women, and children at Fort Neyuheruke–now an archaeological site located about 30 miles from the East Carolina University campus.  And it was also created to mark the first return of the Tuscarora Nation to North Carolina in three hundred years.

The Neyuheruke wampum was presented by three Tuscarora chiefs and seven clan mothers–today’s official rulers of the Tuscarora Nation–in solemn and impressive ceremonies at the opening of the three day Neyuheruke 300 commemoration organized by East Carolina University in collaboration with the Tuscarora Nation and the Greene County Museum in Snow Hill, NC, the closest town to the historic Fort Neyuheruke site.

The wampum was accepted at the ceremony by ECU’s Provost Marilyn Sheerer to be preserved and protected by the University for the people of North Carolina.  The Neyuheruke wampum is one of the most unusual historical “documents” currently held in the Special Collections of Joyner Library.  In addition to its rare historic importance, the wampum will additionally be made available for exhibition at other libraries and museums across North Carolina.

The Neyuheruke Wampum:  Figures & Facts

  • Was created in 2013 to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the tragic battle at Fort Neyuheruke on 21-23 March 1713
  • Was also made to commemorate the return in 2013 of the Tuscarora Nation to North Carolina for the first time in 300 years
  • The wampum tells a story in carefully crafted and arranged beads of the two historic homes of the Tuscarora Nation–the current location of the Tuscarora Reservation in western New York State and the North Carolina homeland where the Tuscarora  people lived for a thousand years–between the two rectangles located at the two ends of the wampum is a zigzag line representing the travels of the Tuscarora people between the two homelands
  • The beads in the wampum are made by hand from purple and white segments of the exceedingly hard shell of the ocean clam or quahog
  • Each bead is carved and honed into a uniform size and a hole is drilled–also by hand–through the center of each bead
  • The Neyuheruke Wampum contains 770 beads arranged in parallel rows that contain from side to side 7 beads and from end to end 110 beads
  • The story of the wampum is told with 180 purple or purple and white beads artfully arranged in a symmetric pattern from end to end
  • Each bead is approximately 20 millimeters (1/8th inch) in diameter and 90 millimeters (3/8ths inch) in length
  • The wampum is approximately 17 inches long from the first to the last bead; and 27 inches to the ends of the strings at each end; it is approximately 2.75 inches wide
  • The wampum is stitched together with narrow and reliably strong strings made from the gut of the deer
  • The wampum surprisingly has a weight of .39 pound (6.278765 ounces; 178 grams) due to the density and weight of the solid and sturdy beads