Our ancestors had much keener senses and greater awareness of their surroundings than we have today. They noticed that the quahog has a life span of many hundreds of years and that the shell has the quality of holding record.
This attribute of the quahog shell became useful when the Wampanoag nation needed to record collective histories. The inner quahog shell has only two colors, purple and white. The two colors were suitable enough to arrange in different ways to indicate important subjects, much like the 1’s and 0’s of binary computer code.
The actual story was recorded by the bead maker. While the shell bead is being drilled the maker breathes the story into the hole in short segments. The act of breathing the story into the bead recorded the emotional nuances of the event as well as era since the DNA of the maker is recorded as the author.
When recording a treaty, will, commerce agreement, extraordinary event and other such subjects the beads were strung together making a belt. These “belts” weren’t actually worn but instead were brought to tribal gatherings and recited to the people. Smaller strings of wampum beads were used to serve as invitations to meetings with the agenda in the beads, warrior dispatch orders, and healing recipes.
We’ve recorded memories in these wampum “flash sticks” for thousands of years.