Wampum were small purple or white beads made from shells.
These beads had great value to Indian tribes throughout the Northeast, particularly the Iroquois. The Iroquois believed that holding strings of wampum could give comfort to people grieving the loss of a loved one.
They also wove wampum beads together to form belts to commemorate important events.
When non-Indian traders arrived in the Northeast, they quickly realized how much the Iroquois treasured wampum and started making the beads to give to their new trading partners.
For a time, in the fur trade, wampum was used like money.