MUHS student studies 1699 Abenaki artifact

MIDDLEBURY-During the April spring break, members of Mrs. Carma Fitzpatrick's MUHS French Class inspected a 300-year-old Native American Abenaki Wampum Belt in the old treasury room in the Chartres Cathedral on a field trip to France.

As part of his Boy Scout Eagle Service Project, Duncan Mathewson, Jr.-son of Duncan and Arlene Mathewson of Middlebury- used his 10th grade French class trip to make arrangements with Gilles Fresson, attach du recteur, at the Chartres Cathedral to view and photograph the Abenaki belt while his French class was visiting the cathedral.

Duncan will be preparing a four-panel 6 month exhibit of this famous wampum belt for completion of his Eagle Scout Advancement program with Boy Scout Troop 536 in Middlebury.

This public educational exhibit will be on display at the Isley (July 8-9 and Aug. 23-24) and Bixby (Sept. 2-Nov. 1) public libraries from June to November.

Wampum served primarily as a symbol of friendship and good will among Indian tribes and their allies. It was made from purple and white clamshell beads and it was exchanged at ceremonies or at treaty-signing councils.

Belts were symbolic of the pledged word of the tribe. This belt which has been preserved as a pledged allegiance is extremely rare and represents a lasting cultural legacy of the Abenaki people as the original inhabitants of Vermont with roots going back over 10,000 years ago.

The belt was made by Abenaki at the St. Francis Indian Village near the St. Lawrence River in Canada for presentation by Jesuits to the Chartres Cathedral in 1699.

The Abenaki belt was photographed and measured as 6.5' long and 7.1" long, making it one of the largest wampum belts preserved from the past-this regal belt has white shell letters backed by a unique purple field of quahog shell beads which is edged with dyed porcupine quills.

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