Seneca Intermediate Wampum Belt

Salamanca City Central School District is proud to present the Seneca Intermediate School Wampum Belt. There were many hands involved in making this a success. Social Emotional Coach Corrine Quin first had the idea after attending Dr. Joe Stahlman’s professional development of Seneca IV and after meetings to brainstorm ways to incorporate the Seneca culture and values into Social Emotional learning. Corinne and Joe discussed SCCSD Seneca Language Department’s 13 Characteristics of a Human Being, the Seneca Creation Story, and the living history of the territory. From this stemmed the idea for Corinne to work with students on creating a social contract in their class when Joe suggested having the students create Wampum belts. The belt is a mutual agreement among different groups. Dr. Stahlman and the Native American Curriculum Team enlisted the help of a now retired Professor Rich Hammel, who is also an archaeologist and paleontologist. Rich resides in the Rochester area and is affiliated with Ganondagan State Historic Site as long-time docent and friend of the site. Rich is well known for his expertise not only in weaving Wampum belts, but also making the beads. Additionally, Rich has knowledge of the various belts and associated agreements or treaties and works to keep the tradition alive. He even has the name Wampum Bearer.

Corinne gathered a group of student volunteers to act as a committee to guide the design of the belt. After meeting with the students in small groups during lunch, we organized their ideas and presented them to Professor Hammel. With the help of the Native American Curriculum Team, Gabriele Papa, Jerry Musial, and Andrea Cooke the committee met for a day long workshop to work with Professor Hammel. Over the summer Professor Hammel worked to make the students’ design ideas come to life. On Friday September 9th, Seneca Intermediate school and the Native American Curriculum team hosted an assembly for the students involved in the Seneca Intermediate Wampum Committee to formally present the belt to their peers, principal, families, and Superintendent Dr. Beehler.

It is important to note this was facilitated by adults, but these are our students’ ideas conveyed through the various symbols and colors throughout the belt. These ideas were important to the students to include for themselves, their families, our school, and the community. After creating the belt and presenting it to the students, Mr. Hammel stated that “this is the first Wampum belt to have been created on Onöndowa’ga:’ territory by both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in a very long time. This was a great step in renewing a long-time tradition for Onöndowa’ga:’ and Hodinöhšyonih peoples and should be held with high regard.”   As their educators, both school staff and families, I am sure you will be proud of the compassionate, respectful, leaders you are helping to grow.

Seneca Intermediate School Wampum Belt

Below are the words of Seneca Intermediate Students explaining the various symbols imbedded in the belt and why they are important to them, their families, their school, and their community.

White Wampum/Leather - The White wampum background represents peace is also emphasized by the white leather. “Peace is important, so students feel safe. Everyone deserves to be treated the same and not be treated rudely. All brothers and sisters should care for one another. Peace is important to my family, my school, and my community so we can live without violence, be nice to one another, and feel safe.”

-Miley Zawatski and Callum Calkins

LGBTQ - “The rainbow stripes on the ends of the belt are a symbol to support the LGBTQ community. This symbol helps show people they can express who they are. Everyone deserves to be treated the same way you would want to be treated. It’s important because everyone should be happy for who they are. For my school, it represents everyone being happy and finding peace the same way all people should. Its important to my community because we can all live in peace without drama. Everyone can be happy with who they are. Everyone deserves to be accepted for what they like.”

-Genesis Gonzales, Adessa Castellano, Victoria Betz, and Gabriella Brown

Salamanca City Central School District Warrior Emblem - “The Seneca Warrior symbol facing West is guarding the Western Door. The eye and feather of the warrior contain 17th century Wampum beads that are approximately 400 years old. The Warrior is a symbol of great leadership and respect. It gives you the will to do something and know that it’s important. At our school, our mascot is the warrior. This shows we have respect for all, and we are great leaders. My community is proud to be Native American. “We are Warriors.” The eye of the emblem and the feather both have real wampum beads from the 17th century.

-Merle Watt, Jaelyn Pinzone, Kelby Johnny-John, and Owen Jimerson

MMIW & Boarding Schools - The red, black, and orange stripes honor and remember the MMIW and Boarding school children. The turquois tear drop represents sorry and hope for those whose lives were lost and never returned home, as well as their families that will carry on their memories. The turquoise tear drop represents Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and the Indigenous children of the Residential Schools. Indigenous Women have been going missing for 30 years.  Native women and go missing or are murdered 10x more than non-native people.  

The story of the orange shirt helps us remember the problems in the Residential Schools. The story is about a little girl who got a brand-new orange shirt.  She was excited to go to school where all of her cousins and siblings went to school.  When she got there, they took away her brand new orange shirt, they cut her hair and gave her a black uniform.  More than 150,000 Indigenous children went to boarding schools and more than 4,000 never came home.”

-Cecilia Chamas, Maliyah Foster, and Diezel Lichy

Hodinöhšyonih Confederacy - The purple Hiawatha design represents the Hodinöhšyonih Confederacy. “The center symbol is the Haudenosaunee Confederacy. This is important because we live and go to school on the Seneca territory. The Senecas are part of the Five Nations made up of the Mohawks, Oneidas, Onondagas, and Cayugas. The Tuscarora are also part of the Confederacy. This was intended to unite the nations and create a peaceful means of decision making. The Grand Council continues to meet and just met for the first time since 2020.”

-Payton Sunderlin

Drug & Alcohol Free - “The red ribbon on the right is a symbol that we are drug free. This is important because it's not good for kids to do drugs. It can kill you. For my family, my school, and my community it is important because we need to stop people from dying. It is bad for our system and when you do drugs, you are killing yourself. You are hurting your family and friends.”

-Autumn Jones, Nathan Fenton, Ruby Sundown, Serenity Tallchief

Ohi:yo’ – “The purple pattern on the bottom of the belt represents the Ohi:yo' "Beautiful River" also known as the Allegheny River located on the Onöndowa'ga:' Ohi:yo' Territory. Ohi:yo’ is important because water is life and water makes all life possible.  Ohi:yo’ is important to me because it represents the struggles that indigenous people have faced in the past and continue to face today.  Ohi:yo’ is important to my family because downriver is Cornplanter Cemetery where many of our ancestors are buried. Ohi:yo is important to the school because it reminds us of the rich history of this land before us, and our duty to keep that history alive.  Lastly, Ohi:yo’ is important to the community because the water flowing represents harmony and peace between us.”

-Paxtynn Kerswill