The Wampum Keeper
| Introduction | Chapters 1 - 3 | Explore | News & Views | Home

Museums and Historical Sites

London (Ontario) Museum of Archaeology. A virtual tour of a reconstructed village occupied in the 15th century by the "Neutral" nation, the "Deer people" I write about in The Wampum Keeper.

Sainte-Marie among the Hurons. The Jesuits' Huron mission fort opened in 1639 and was burned to the ground by the Jesuits themselves in 1649 in the face of an advancing Iroquois army. The reconstructed buildings and palisade of the fort are now a considerable tourist attraction in north Simcoe County, Ontario. This Web page contains an essay on the history of the French mission fort, together with a good bibliography on the subject.

Petroglyphs Provincial Park located in Ontario's Kawartha Lakes district. The rock seen in the photo has hundreds of carvings of symbolic shapes and figures. These petroglyphs (petro = rock; glyph = carving) are thought to have been made between 500 and 1000 years ago by Algonkian-speaking people. In my novel, an Algonquin healer, camped by the Couchiching narrows, mends Shalinka's jaw wound. When he recovers, she insists that in order to rid himself of his "Burden of Souls" he must attend the midsummer's day ceremonies at the "Rock of the Shaman".

Ganondagan State Historic Site, N.Y. Ganondagan is the location of a major 17th century Seneca town and its palisaded granary. This Web page contains an account of the old town, as well as links to Web pages devoted to the history (and current events) of the peoples of the Haudenosaunee or Iroquois League.

NY State Museum in Albany. The virtual exhibit seen here depicts life in a Mohawk Iroquois village around 1600, before European influence greatly changed Iroquois culture. The scenes include a scale model of an Iroquois village, part of a full sized longhouse with furnishings, and an agricultural field. ***Note: May 11 2016 This exhibition is 'history' the site says, and you are asked to use their search engine to find what looks to be an excellent teaching guide on NY natives.

Primary Source Materials

The Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents 1610 to 1791. This remarkable site contains the entire English translation of the published works of the old Jesuit priests of New France.

Native Science and Technology


Woven Wampum Beadwork. This Web page contains a brief history of wampum bead and wampum belt construction.

Wampum Belts. On this page you can see a photo of a Huron wampum belt commemorating a 1638 agreement between the Hurons and French Jesuit missionaries for the construction of the first wooden church on Huron lands. [ Note: 1683, the date given for this Huron belt, is incorrect; the Hurons' villages and cornfields were empty by 1652.]

The Significance of Wampum to 17th Century Indians in New England. Here is Dr. Lois Scozzari's essay on the subject.

Wampum as a Money Substitute in Early Colonial Times. Here is an essay by Louis Jordan, Department of Special Collections, Hesburgh Library, University of Notre Dame, Indiana.


In The Wampum Keeper, flint-knapping plays a role. Shalinka's senior wife, Tahinya, is a master knapper, and in 1651, with the ironwares of the French fur traders unavailable because of the Iroquois wars, her knapping skills are very much in demand. This has allowed me to write a little about the ancient art of flint-knapping -- and a little about the massive glaciers that exposed Niagara's many flint beds.

Flint Knapping

Longhouse and Wigwam Construction

Longhouses. Photographs of Iroquoian longhouses

Wigwams. This Web page contains information on the history and construction of the wigwam, the principle type of home built by the Algonkian-speaking peoples.

Food and Medicine

Native American Ethnobotany Database. This database is a new edition of the Medicinal Plants of Native America database built by the University of Michigan-Dearborn. Substantially enlarged, it includes foods, drugs, dyes, fibers and other uses of plants (for a total of over 44,000 items); it represents uses by 291 native American nations of 4,029 species from 243 different plant families.

Clothing and Moccasins

Moccasins. This Web page shows and tells the history of moccasin construction methods. It has links to pages devoted to leather clothing.

Passenger Pigeons

Passenger Pigeons. The passenger pigeon is extinct today; in the 17th century flocks of these birds in flight were large enough to block out the sun for hours. Their valley rookeries, which they returned to year after year, were immense, some forty miles long and several miles wide. The final scenes of The Wampum Keeper take place near one of these colossal rookeries. The url above will take you to a Smithsonian Institute encyclopedia site.


Other Topics Dealt With in
The Wampum Keeper


French-Huron Fur Trade

The Fur Trade Era in Canada. This set of 10 Web pages provide an online learning experience created by the Hudson's Bay Company and The Canadian Encyclopedia.

Millennium Fever

Millennium and Millenarianism. A strong millennial undercurrent runs through the accounts of the Jesuits' mission to the Hurons. The extraordinary zeal and optimism of the French missionaries was apparently closely related to their apocalyptical views. In their minds, writes the Canadian historian C.J. Jaenen, the discovery of the New World was associated with the imminent end of the world. The Jesuits believed that by founding in the New World a new church with the purity of the Apostolic church they would hasten the second coming of Christ. 1 This Web page is part of The Catholic Encyclopedia site; it contains an essay on millenarianism.

In The Wampum Keeper, Shalinka's Petun brother Ekarenni recalls the story of murdered Jesuit Charles Garnier muttering about the end of the world as Iroquois League braves burned the town of Etharita. While recuperating in the Huron country, Shalinka hears similar stories about the Jesuits who'd retreated to Gahoendoe Island after burning their mission fort. On Gahoendoe, the next winter, during a famine among the native converts, one of the French priests had said that the famine was a sign of the end of the world.

Retreat of the Glaciers and the Earliest Inhabitants of NY and Ontario

Ice Ages and Glaciation. The massive glaciers that formed North America's last ice age -- known as the Wisconsinan ice age -- began their retreat from the lower Great Lakes region about 13,000 years ago. The Wisconsinan ice sculptured the details of the Ontario and New York landscapes and produced the network of waterways and wooded terrain that later became the home of the Iroquoian and Algonkian peoples. This set of Web pages, created by the T.E.A.C.H Great Lakes Education and Curriculum group, provides some excellent materials on ice ages and their role in the formation of the Great Lakes.

Native American Remains and the Peopling of the Americas.

In the past two decades, an exciting revolution has taken place in archaeology. The story of how human beings first arrived in the Americas has been, and is continuing to be, drastically rewritten. Until recently, archaeologists and anthropologists believed that the American continents were populated as the result of a continuous process of immigration across the Bering Straits around the time of the last Ice Age. New discoveries have changed this story dramatically. The possible dates of immigration have been pushed ever farther into the prehistoric past, the origins of the immigrants have increasingly come to be seen as uncertain and potentially diverse, and the existence of multiple routes (and periods) of immigration now seems likely.

The above url will take you to a PBS Nova site which delves into the mystery of the first North Americans and into the controversy surrounding the recent discovery of the so-called Kennewick Man.


"Mighty White of You" by Jack Hitt in the July 2005 issue of Harper's Magazine details the racial preferences that color research into, and discussion about, North America's oldest skulls and bones.

Native Languages

"Wendat Dialects and the Development of the Huron Alliance" The French missionaries in New France constructed grammars of the Huron (Wendat) language, and of the languages of their other potential converts. Some of these grammars are still extant and are the subject of linguistic research. John Steckley, Native Studies professor at Toronto's Humber College, has studied the various Huron dialects; his research has led him to believe that the Huron had five, not four, nations in their confederacy at the time of first contact with the French. Web version of Prof. Steckley's essay no longer available. [Note: April 16/09]


John Steckley, "The Warrior and the Lineage: Jesuit Use of Iroquoian Images to Communicate Christianity," Ethnohistory, 39:4 (1992): 478-509.

De Religione: Telling the Seventeenth Century Jesuit Story in Huron to the Iroquois. Translated and edited by John Steckley. The University of Oklahoma Press, 2004. 213 pp. Images, notes, references, index. $34.95 (cloth), ISBN 0-8061-3617-0.


Warfare in the Time of Champlain 1600-1635 The Virtual Museum of New France has excellent Web pages on 1) The First Battle Against the Iroquois 2) Weapons and Armour 3) Arquebuses and Muskets 4) Bullets and Gun Flints, and 5) The Privilege of the Sword.


Alcohol for Furs? A sacrilege!

Before the arrival of European fishers and fur traders, alcohol was unknown in the Northeast. The reason for its initial use by Iroquoian and Algonkian peoples is today a subject of growing consensus: Intoxication was used as a "dream-maker", as a means of stimulating vision experiences which were highly regarded in both societies. However, scholars like C.J. Jaenen leave us in no doubt that alcohol abuse -- and its companion scourge debauchery -- quickly became serious problems both for the Jesuits who attempted to halt the liquor trade, and for the civil authorities of New France. 2

Diseases and the Debate on Aboriginal Populations

The Columbian Exchange. Alfred W. Crosby, Professor Emeritus at the Univ. of Texas (Austin), is the author of the 1972 book The Columbian Exchange: Plants, Animals, and Disease between the Old and New Worlds. Prof. Crosby, with the aid of the National Humanities Center, has produced a Web site dealing with the subject matter of his book. This excellent online learning site includes the following pages: 1) A Student Discussion Guide 2) A Scholars Debate and 3) Links to Online Resources.

Relations between Algonkians and Iroquoians

On the one hand, the Iroquoians admired the Algonkians for their endurance, hunting skills, and handicrafts; on the other hand, they despised them for their nomadic life. Joseph Campbell, quoting from an earlier source, writes: "Their [i.e. the Algonkians] very name means 'tree-eaters'...and was given to them by the Iroquois in contempt for their famine diet of buds and bark, to which, having no stores of corn, they were in winter sometimes reduced." 3

In The Wampum Keeper, I explore this theme through the Algonquin healer who saves Shalinka's life, and by having Shalinka marry -- before the story opens, and to the intense displeasure of Tahinya -- the Ottawa woman Hannoe.


Native American Religion in Early America. Christine Leigh Heyrman, Professor of History at the University of Delaware, with the aid of the National Humanities Center, has produced an excellent online learning site. This Web page contains links to both Huron and Iroquois materials.

C.J. Jaenen writes that Amerindian dreams were of two types: 1) symptomatic dreams which expressed a wish of the dreamer's soul or inner being, and 2) visitation dreams which expressed the wish of a supernatural being who appeared in the dream or vision. Both types caused problems and presented dangers for the French missionaries. This attachment to dreams was especially troublesome, Jaenen maintains, "precisely because the native religion used an expression of supernatural direction which the Catholic Church wished to use itself." 4

Post-Apocalypse Stress Syndrome (PASS)

Lawrence W. Gross of the Minnesota Chippewa tribe has explored in his academic writing the reality of what he terms the "post-apocalypse stress syndrome" besetting present-day native Americans. This is the same reality I'm exploring in my fiction work "The Wampum Keeper."

Gross maintains that starting in a profound way with the reservation period but actually going back to the time of first contact with Europeans, American Indians have seen the end of their worlds. The apocalypse for Indians was brought on by the onslaught of Afro-Eurasian diseases which may have been responsible for reducing American Indian populations by as much as 90 to 95 percent, and by the genocidal practices followed by Euro-Americans.

"A culture," says Gross, "cannot go through this type of trauma and not expect to suffer some type of impact; for example, it took Europe about 100 to 150 years to recover from the bubonic plague."

"Most usually, and as occurred in Europe, a postapocalyptic period will see an abandonment of productive employment; an increase in substance abuse; an increase in violence, especially domestic violence; an abandonment of established religious practices; the adoption of fanatical forms of religion; a loss of hope; and a sense of despair on the part of the survivors."

"Together, these elements constitute what I call post-apocalypse stress syndrome, which can be thought of as posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) raised to the level of an entire culture. As with an individual suffering from PTSD, the challenge for a culture is to go through some type of recovery. That process principally entails rebuilding the cultural world."

In the articles referenced below, Gross argues that although the traditional world of the Anishinaabe may have come to an end, the worldview that informed that life still survives

Gross, Lawrence W. "The Comic Vision of Anishinaabe Culture and Religion." American Indian Quarterly /summer 2002/ 26: 3 pp. 436-459.

Gross, Lawrence W. "Cultural Sovereignty and Native American Hermeneutics in the Interpretation of the Sacred Stories of the Anishinaabe." Wicazo Sa Review / Fall 2003/ pp. 127-134.



1. CJ Jaenen, Friend and Foe: Aspects of French-Amerindian Cultural Contact in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries. (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1976) 8.

2. Jaenen 110-115.

3. Campbell, Joseph, Campbell, Joseph. Historical Atlas of World Mythology, Vol. II, The Way of the Seeded Earth, Part 2, Mythologies of the Primitive Planters: The Northern Americas (New York: Harper and Row, 1989) 132.

4. Jaenen, 57.


| Introduction | Chapters 1 - 3 | Explore | News & Views | Home |