What is Wampum?

Legal Definition
Wampum are traditional shell beads of the Eastern Woodlands tribes of the indigenous people of North America. Wampum include the white shell beads fashioned from the North Atlantic channeled whelk shell; and the white and purple beads made from the quahog, or Western North Atlantic hard-shelled clam.

Wampum were used by the northeastern Native Americans as a form of gift exchange. Early historians and colonists mistook wampum as a form of money. The colonists then adopted wampum as their own currency; however, the Europeans' more efficient production of wampum caused inflation and ultimately the obsolescence of wampum as currency.

Wampum was often kept on strings like Chinese cash. Before European contact, strings of wampum were used for storytelling, ceremonial gifts, and the recording of important treaties and historical events, such as the Two Row Wampum Treaty.

According to the Onondaga Nation, the wampum is a living record and has many uses. These can include inviting a person to a meeting, showing title, and to show that a speaker holding it is truthful.

See: Onondaga Nation http://www.onondaganation.org/culture/wampum/
-- Wikipedia
Legal Definition
Beads made of shells, used as money by the North American Indians, and which continued current in New York as late as 1693.
-- Black's Law Dictionary
Legal Definition
The bead money of the North American Indians.
-- Ballentine's Law Dictionary