Wampum, made of white and purple Atlantic coast seashells, had considerable value to Aboriginals in eastern Canada for ornament and ceremony and to non-Aboriginals for currency, particularly in the 17th and 18th centuries. Wampum was threaded on string or woven into belts and sashes. Particular patterns symbolized events, alliances and people, and wampum was used to form relationships, propose marriage, atone for murder or ransom captives. Wampum was closely linked with the FUR TRADE in eastern Canada, where it was used as a trade good.

Before Confederation in 1867 some Aboriginal groups indicated their assent to certain INDIAN TREATIES by presenting wampum to crown officials. The Two Row Wampum Belt, or Kahswenhtha, of the Iroquois symbolizes an agreement of mutual respect and peace between themselves and European newcomers to North America. The principles embodied in the belt are a set of rules governing the behaviour of the 2 groups. The wampum belt stipulates that neither group will force their laws, traditions, customs or language on each other, but will coexist peacefully.