The representatives of the Huron-Wendat and Abenaki First Nations returned on Friday, November 17.
These two belts had left since November 3, 2017 for a physical study by archaeologists from Quebec and Rennes, in connection with the Abenaki Museum and the archaeological excavation campaigns carried out in Odanak and Wôlinak.
To discover in video the journey of the wampums towards Rennes, and how scientists hope to rediscover the secret of manufacturing these three-hundred-year-old objects through virtual reality: click here
Notre-Dame de Chartres has the privilege of preserving the wampum belts or necklaces (shell and glass beads) offered to the cathedral in the 17th century by the Abenakis and Huron-Wendat, two of the First Nations of New France. These belts are lined with porcupine quills and made up of shell beads, white and purple as well as white and black green beads, strung in leather straps that draw inscriptions dedicated to the Virgin. Since their donation they have been kept in the treasure of the cathedral sometimes exhibited on the altar of Our Lady of Sous-Terre. These objects, remarkable for their seniority and rarity, are also the testimony of a traditional diplomatic usage of the Amerindian nations. Indeed, the purpose of wampum exchange was to seal a pact between two parties in the context of an alliance or an important social event.
The belts were taken out of the transport crates and placed on the sacristy furniture, Florence Benedict, representative of the Abenaki Nation and Stéphane Picard, representative of the Huron Nation-Wendat gathered before these gifts offered nearly 300 years ago by their ancestors. The emotion was visible.
These belts will be displayed in the Saint-Piat chapel when the treasure of Chartres will be presented in 2019 (date of completion of work).
Welcomed by Cécile Figliuzzi, director of the Departmental Archives of Eure-et-Loir, Florence Benedict and Stéphane Picard have discovered a set of writings and letters attesting to these gifts. Indeed, the Abenaki and Huron chiefs exchanged with the clergy of the time, between 1674 and 1703. These documents, now digitized, will be able to travel to Canada where they will be studied. The alphabet has of course evolved and it will be necessary to decipher more precisely some of these texts.
This fact transmitted from generation to generation, considered perhaps as a legend, took first in the sacristy, then in the departmental archives the dimension of a very strong reality.
Access the report of France 3 Centre: click here
The photos below show the signature on the back of two of these archived letters:
Thus the Hurons' bead belt, accompanied by a prayer, arrived at the Chapter in 1678; the Abenaki belt, composed of 11,000 beads (one bead per member of the tribe) arrived in 1699. The clergy in return also sent gifts: silver shirts filled with relics, a statue of Virgo in silver, which are visible at the Huron-Wendat Museum (see the link to this museum in the sidebar).