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Wampum Treaty Belts

Let’s make a deal! Explore the use of symmetry and pattern seen on wampum treaty belts. Design a treaty belt of your own in a similar fashion using Crayola® Bright Fabric Markers!

  • Grade 2
    Grade 3
    Grade 4
  • 30 to 60 minutes
  • Directions

    1. Have you ever asked your parents if you could have something or go somewhere, and they responded by saying, “only if you clean your room“, or “not unless you take out the trash?” What agreement did you make in that situation? Did you clean your room, or work out a different agreement?
    2. This type of exchange is called a negotiation. Discuss some examples of negotiation with your class. What experiences have you had with negotiating?
    3. When countries or governments negotiate with each other, the agreement they make is called a treaty. Long ago, when Europeans began settling in North America, they made many treaties with native tribes. One such tribe, the Haudenosaunee, recorded their treaties by weaving beautiful wampum belts that symbolized the agreements. Wampum are beads made from mollusk shells, which are highly valued in the Haudenosaunee culture.
    4. Look at a few examples of wampum belts with your class. Discuss the symmetrical patterns of the designs. What does symmetry mean? Are patterns always symmetrical? What treaties do you think those belts represent?
    5. Design a treaty belt to represent an agreement you have made with someone. Use symmetrical patterns to symbolize the agreement. Draw the design on a long, wide strip of fabric with Crayola Bright Fabric Markers!
    6. For best results, use 100% cotton fabric. Place a piece of recycled newspaper underneath the drawing area to prevent bleed through. Draw your design, making sure you saturated the cloth. You can use several layers of color to get the brightest results! Stain Advisement: Fabric markers are permanent on clothing and contain colorants that may stain household surfaces. Wear a smock to protect clothing and cover your work surface. Recap markers as soon as possible and store in a horizontal position. Do not shake markers.
    7. Be creative! Use lots of shapes, swirls, and patterns to symbolize your treaty. Experiment with applying different levels of pressure on the markers as you draw and layering colors for a variety of effects!
    8. When you are finished, ask an adult to iron your design. Set iron on cotton setting and iron on the reverse side using a back and forth motion for 4 minutes. Or place the treaty belt in the dryer for 30 minutes on the hottest setting. This will fix the color to the fabric.
  • Standards

    LA: Read with sufficient accuracy and fluency to support comprehension.

    LA: Acquire and use accurately grade-appropriate conversational, general academic, and domain specific words and phrases, including those that signal spatial and temporal relationships.

    LA: Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher led) with diverse partners on grade level topics and texts, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly.

    MATH: Draw and identify lines and angles, and classify shapes by properties of their lines and angles.

    SS: Describe ways in which language, stories, folktales, music, and artistic creations serve as expressions of culture and influence behavior of people living in a particular culture.

    SS: Use appropriate resources, data sources, and geographic tools to generate, manipulate, and interpret information.

    SS: Identify examples of institutions an describe the interactions of people with institutions.

    SS: Identify and use various sources for reconstructing the past, such as documents, letters, diaries, maps, textbooks, photos, and others.

    VA: Use different media, techniques, and processes to communicate ideas, experiences, and stories.

    VA: Use visual structures of art to communicate ideas.

    VA: Select and use subject matter, symbols, and ideas to communicate meaning.

    VA: Describe and place a variety of art objects in historical and cultural contexts.

  • Adaptations

    Possible classroom resources include: If You Lived With The Iroquois by Ellen Levine; The Iroquois (True Books: American Indians) by Stephanie Takas; Iroquois Indians (Native Americans) by Caryn Yacowitz; The Iroquois: The Six Nations Confederacy (American Indian Nations) by Mary Englar

    Student groups sketch a map of North America and identify the areas where the Iroquois tribes would have been found. What states are part of this land today?

    Cornhusk dolls were popular toys for children of the Haudenosaunee tribe. Encourage students to create their own cornhusk dolls using Crayola Classic Markers to add facial features and clothing.


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  • Creativity.
  • Capacity.
  • Collaboration.
  • Change.
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