Fig. 2. F. Bourquin & Co., printer, The belt of wampum delivered by the Indians to William Penn at the "Great Treaty" under the Elm Tree at Shackamoxon in 1682, c. 1857. Lithograph, 13 3/8 x 40 1/8 in. Photograph courtesy of Library Company of Philadelphia

Re-reading Wampum: The Penn Treaty Belt and Indeterminate Iconographies


PDF: Houston, Re-reading Wampum

We try to establish what the author meant, and not at all what the reader understands.

—Roland Barthes1


Photograph of an interior of an art gallery, with two paintings of Native American men hung on a green wall and a display case with a wampum belt below them.
Fig. 1. Installation view of the early American art galleries, Philadelphia Museum of Art. Penn Treaty Belt reproduced courtesy of Historical Society of Pennsylvania Collection / Atwater Kent Collection at Drexel; image reproduced courtesy of Philadelphia Museum of Art. Photograph: Joseph Hu

It is late 2022, and I am standing in one of the Philadelphia Museum of Art (PMA)’s recently reinstalled galleries of early American art (fig. 1). A case directly before me displays the famous Penn Treaty Belt (fig. 2), a splendid stretch of woven wampum that depicts two figures against a field of white consisting of hundreds of precisely worked fragments of whelk shells. Traditionally, the belt is associated with the celebrated 1682 meeting between the Indigenous Lenape, or Delaware, Indians, and William Penn, the proprietor of Pennsylvania, beneath an elm at Shackamaxon near Philadelphia. In fact, however, there is no conclusive proof that such a meeting ever took place, and there is much, too, that we do not know about the belt; its maker, date of manufacture, and early provenance all remain unclear.2 All this uncertainty helps explain the tentative language of the museum placard that accompanies the belt. “Perhaps,” it reads, “the maker of the belt intended the linked hands of the two figures—the taller Lenape and the smaller European—to commemorate a moment of peaceful coexistence.”

Perhaps. But is an attempt to excavate the intention of a spectral hypothetical maker really the sole means of understanding the belt? Or, given the belt’s apparent status as an intercultural ambassador and its many subsequent interpreters, might the observations of reception theorists be of value? In other words, might we follow the Lenape in recognizing that a wampum belt can be read but acknowledge, too, that reading is inevitably an active process of interaction between a medium and various audiences, yielding interpretations that may or may not coincide with its maker’s intentions?3 As an art historian long interested in the interpretive role played by various beholders over time, I think that we might—and, given that the recent efflorescence of scholarly interest in wampum has largely conceived of artistic meaning in a static sense, I think that we should.4 Here, then, I will try to sketch what an analysis informed by reception theory might suggest about the Penn Treaty Belt.5

Lithograph reproduction of the wampum belt in fig. 1
Fig. 2. F. Bourquin & Co., printer, The belt of wampum delivered by the Indians to William Penn at the “Great Treaty” under the Elm Tree at Shackamoxon in 1682, c. 1857. Lithograph, 13 3/8 x 40 1/8 in. Photograph courtesy of Library Company of Philadelphia

Notably, contemporary commentators generally agree with the placard’s hypothesis that the belt’s central message is one of concord and peace. To the Mohawk storyteller Tehanetorens, the belt suggests two peoples “joined together as one.”6 And to the historian Alison Duncan Hirsch, “It portrays two men holding hands—one English, one Lenape—to symbolize peace.”7 In short, the belt is broadly seen as embodying the spirit of rhetorical goodwill that initially characterized relations between Native Peoples and Pennsylvanians in the early 1680s.8

Such a reading, moreover, is defensible in several senses. Wampum belts could serve a wide range of functions, but they were frequently presented as material records of alliances and as political gifts among allies (fig. 3).9 More specifically, in Lenape, Haudenosaunee, and Algonquian diplomatic culture, the joining of hands generally signified friendship and solidarity. Traditional accounts of the binding of the Haudenosaunee peoples positioned the holding of hands as an inaugural act in a tradition of peace, and Eastern Woodland Native Americans regularly joined hands as a means of expressing friendship or cohabitation.10 Furthermore, Penn had explicitly accented the themes of love and friendship in a 1681 letter to Native leaders, and in an English context, joined hands also often communicated notions of covenant and peaceful love.11 In a 1644 overview of gestures, for example, John Bulwer characterizes the shaking of hands as “an expression usuall in friendship, peacefull love, benevolence, salutation, entertainment, and bidding welcome.”12 Given concurrent European interest in the allegedly natural and universally communicative aspects of gestures, it was clearly tempting—and evidently remains tempting—to see the primary theme of the Penn Treaty Belt as plainly legible to both Lenape viewers and colonial Pennsylvanians.13

View of a museum gallery case with two wampum belts displayed on shelves
Fig. 3. Installation view of Nation to Nation: Treaties Between the United States and American Indian Nations, National Museum of the American Indian, Washington, DC. Photograph: Kerr Houston

Nevertheless, there are certain difficulties with such a position. Most troubling, perhaps, is the fact that there is real disagreement about the identity of the two figures. While some have read the taller figure as a Lenape chieftain in a feathered headdress and the smaller figure as an Englishman, others have viewed the larger figure as Penn in a broad-brimmed Quaker hat and the second figure as Tamanend, a Lenape leader.14 Similarly, divergent interpretations have been advanced regarding the white field of beads, with some scholars maintaining that it signified a hoped-for peace or a harmonious environment and others seeing it as a reference to the white page on which treaties were typically recorded. The prominent diagonal bands have variously been read as evocations of allies, references to the territories that were the subject of negotiation, or testaments to the sincerity of the represented figures.15 In such an unstable iconographic environment, the significance of the gesture of the two figures at the center of the belt also begins to wobble. Are the two figures joining hands or shaking hands—or might one be taking the other’s hand or even leading by the hand?

Admittedly, such questions can seem pedantic. After all, Native diplomats were apparently alert to the potentially open-ended quality of wampum belt imagery, which is presumably why they sometimes explained the intended meanings to their diplomatic counterparts, obviating potential confusion.16 Some Native communities also held collective readings of wampum belts in an attempt to ensure the transgenerational stability of the belts’ meanings.17 Even so, alternative readings could and did arise, since Native ambassadors were only one link in a chain of cross-cultural communication, and the meanings that they assigned the belts did not always correspond to those perceived by the belts’ makers or eventual recipients. Thus, Hirsch suggests that female makers of wampum belts may have thought of the figures as generically human rather than necessarily male.18 In turn, Euro-American observers viewed the belts through culturally specific conceptual filters that influenced their responses to specific gestures, colors, and even forms. And later observers have added still other readings.

In other words, the Penn Treaty Belt has long inspired the varied constitutive responses that Wolfgang Iser once saw as typical of indeterminate texts.19 Critically, though, the belt’s indeterminacy was also productive in that it supported different readings that managed to satisfy the divergent expectations of the two primary parties—and thus echoed a relevant Native interest in parallelisms and mutuality.20 In this way, the belt’s polyvalence also obscured substantial differences between Native and Euro-American priorities. With time, though, those differences became increasingly clear, and any sense of innocent amity expressed in the Penn Treaty Belt eventually yielded to more contentious and even openly violent interactions.

The head of the larger figure offers a useful starting point in a close consideration of the belt’s iconography. Comprised of ten beads, this head is more than twice as large as the counterpart’s—suggesting the possibility of some sort of headgear. That, at least, was the conclusion of two Haudenosaunee chiefs in the early 1900s, who assumed that the figure is wearing a feathered headdress.21 The idea is certainly historically plausible: in 1654, Peter Lindeström reported that the Lenape painted their faces with many colors and decorated their heads with “long and large painted bird feathers.”22 More specifically, Lenape and Haudenosaunee males often wore a gustoweh, a framework of splints that could carry a cluster of feather webbing, which was sometimes capped by large feathers, shaft ornaments, and plumed spikes to create a sizable, dramatic headdress.23 Furthermore, both of the figures are formed of purplish beads made from the mantles of clam valves in an involved series of steps; typically, they cost roughly twice as much as the more easily manufactured white beads.24 To be sure, purple beads carried various connotations, but their relatively generous usage in the case of the larger figure suggests importance or power to many observers.25 Indeed, the two Haudenosaunee chiefs stated that the figure was enlarged precisely because Indigenous Peoples were at that time stronger than the newly arrived, precariously positioned colonists.26

So far, so good. But the same form was almost certainly viewed differently by Penn and his Quaker cohort—some of whom, importantly, had faced intense public condemnation for their unusual attitudes toward headgear. As Andrew Murphy observes, hat-honor (the polite removal of one’s hat) was a stock gesture of respect in seventeenth-century England.27 The Quaker founder George Fox, however, openly criticized hat-honor as vain and hypocritical.28 His followers embraced that idea, and Penn actually incurred a fine for refusing to doff his broad-brimmed hat during a 1670 trial:

Recorder: Why do you not put off your hat then?

Penn: Because I do not believe that to be any respect.29

The Quakers’ rejection of hat-honor (and of the social hierarchy that it upheld) was a subject of repeated debate and ridicule in the later 1600s.30 Given such a context, some early Euro-American viewers likely saw the larger figure in the belt as wearing a hat rather than a feathered headdress. That, at least, was the impression of Penn’s great-grandson, who stated (when donating the belt to the Historical Society of Pennsylvania in 1857) that the larger figure was indeed a European in a hat.31 The larger of the two figures could thus easily support two different interpretations, allowing each of the primary diplomatic parties a degree of meaningful identification. Or, to use phrasings drawn from reception theory, the belt’s imagery could be read differently by the two interpretive communities, whose cultural horizons of expectation were quite distinct.32

Similarly, the hands of the two figures also facilitated multiple interpretations, in part because they are rendered cursorily, by a single bead apiece. The figures’ engaged arms are a bead shorter than their relaxed limbs, arguably supporting the idea that their hands are intertwined. As mentioned above, joined hands could connote, in both Native American and English visual cultures, friendship or solidarity. Notably, too, gesture was sometimes posited as a means of clear communication that helped parties overcome linguistic challenges. In fact, Bulwer celebrates the value of gesture in speaking with Native Americans:

The Hand alone doth intimate our strong
Or faint desires: In this garbe long ago
We spake with th’Indian Apochankano.33

But such optimism in the universal comprehensibility of gesture was undercut by the existence of several closely related but semantically distinct gestures. Indeed, Bulwer admits that the touching of hands could also signify a covenant or a legal contract.34 And, in fact, both Penn and the Lenape were familiar with this sense. In 1683, Penn wrote of his role in a council meeting regarding land purchases; at one point, a Native deputy “came to me, and in the name of his king saluted me, then took me by the hand, and told me that he was ordered by his king to speak to me.”35 A close discussion of boundaries and prices followed.

And that is not all, for the idea of leading another by the hand was also central to Penn’s notions of colonization and religious salvation. In several of his early religious treatises, Penn had referred to such a gesture; in No Cross, No Crown, for instance, Penn writes that when he was younger, God “took me by the hand, and led me out of the pleasures, vanities, and hopes of the world.”36 The reference meaningfully recalls similar moments in seventeenth-century religious imagery that also associate the taking of another’s hand with religious guidance (fig. 4). But the gesture was not only a divine one. In August of 1682, as he set sail for Pennsylvania, Penn encouraged his children to “pity the distressed, and hold out a hand of help to them.”37 Penn may have had the poor, generally, in mind—but it is also worth noting that the 1681 Charter of Pennsylvania explicitly commended Penn for his desire to “reduce [that is, lead] the savage natives, by gentle and just manners, to the love of civil society and Christian religion.”38 The gesture in the wampum belt, then, could be seen as one of amity, of ratification, or of Christian paternalism.

Black-and-white print of Jesus Christ taking the hand of a bearded man, with rays of light coming down from a heaven-like scene above.
Fig. 4. Jacques Callot, Christ Walking on Water, Holding the Hand of St. Peter (first composition), plate 8 from Les Tableaux de Rome, Les Eglises Jubilaires, 1607–11. Engraving, 4 3/4 x 19 5/8 in. Photograph courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

The same can arguably also be said of the largely uninterrupted white field that surrounds the figures. To Lenape and Haudenosaunee viewers, white beads often (if not inevitably) connoted ease or harmony, and the belt’s maker may well have intended to invoke such qualities.39 To Christian colonists, however, the undecorated expanses of the belt may have recalled the Biblical injunction to “fill the earth and subdue it” (Gen. 1:28): an important foundation in the European sanctioning of the “occupation of lands thought to be either underpopulated or underutilized.”40 Indeed, the undecorated expanses of the belt also echo visual passages in several contemporary European examples that stressed the unpopulated potential of America. A 1681 English map of portions of Pennsylvania (fig. 5), for example, presents the territory as largely empty and implicitly unpopulated, a theme that is extended in the accompanying text that states: “It seems to many, to be the time wherein those desolate Western parts of the World are to be Planted.”41 As Emily Mann has recently observed, text and image work together in the map to subdue and silence Indigenous presence and to present the land as an empty field, full of the potential for European activity and improvement.42 Far from suggesting harmony, such an image implies frictionless domination.

Black-and-white map of Pennsylvania, showing primarily the Schuylkill and XXX rivers running north to south.
Fig. 5. Facsimile of John Thornton, A map of some of the south and east bounds of Pennsylvania in America, being partly inhabited, 1681 (published by Albert Cook Myers in 1923). Engraving, 16 1/8 x 19 5/8 in. Courtesy of the Norman B. Leventhal Map & Education Center at the Boston Public Library

In several ways, then, the belt could support dramatically different visions of the relationship between Native Americans and Euro-Americans. Significantly, though, this was not necessarily unintentional—for, in fact, wampum belts are two-sided objects, which could read differently to audiences viewing the belts from different angles. Occasionally, too, they were turned at critical moments.43 That could affect, in turn, the perceived image; for example, the powerful diagonal forms in the Penn Treaty Belt would now face in the opposite direction, creating a different visual effect. Likewise, other wampum belts sometimes depict two parallel lines or paths, as if to underscore the idea that Indigenous Peoples and colonizers experienced the world in related but ultimately distinct ways. Rather than insisting on a single meaning, in other words, Native discourse sometimes accommodated multiple views and the possibility of separate experiences.44 So, too, did the Penn belt.

In the early 1680s, the Lenape were a small, vulnerable group that tended to negotiate for peace and protection; Penn, in turn, headed a modest band of colonists and was both eager to avoid the violence that had recently plagued other colonies and hopeful that he could efficiently clear titles to land that he hoped to sell.45 Both parties thus had powerful incentives to get along. Early partial congruences—the seeming mutual intelligibility of gestures and an apparent shared tendency to participate in gift culture—helped.46 But they may also, as Céline Carayon observes, have led to overconfidence and an obscuring of substantial differences between the cultures.47 In the ensuing years, the profound gulf between European and Indigenous notions of society, property ownership, and usufruct became impossible to ignore—as well as, often, to negotiate.48 Statements of goodwill and mutual friendship began to give way to distrust and even fraud, and Penn’s Woods devolved into what James Merrell once memorably called an abattoir.49

The Penn Treaty Belt thus stands as an apparent testament to a period of fragile hope and noble mutual intentions. But its iconography was not necessarily as stable or as simple as commentators have tended to imply. Rather, the belt offers a prominent example of a polyvalent object whose place in a consequential cross-cultural conversation allowed it to support a range of connotations—which, in turn, tacitly reinforced the assumptions and aims of diverse parties.50 Perhaps the maker of the belt did indeed, as the PMA would have it, intend the linked hands of the two figures to commemorate a moment of peaceful coexistence. But the intention of the author, as Roland Barthes knew, does not necessarily correspond to the responses of the readers. Once we accept the basic indeterminacy of the belt, we can begin to reconstruct some of those responses while also seeing our own interpretations as part of a dynamic and ongoing interpretive process, through which diverse meanings are (and always have been) actively created.

Cite this article: Kerr Houston, “Re-reading Wampum: The Penn Treaty Belt and Indeterminate Iconographies,” Panorama: Journal of the Association of Historians of American Art 9, no. 1 (Spring 2023),


  1. Roland Barthes, The Rustle of Language (New York: Hill and Wang, 1986), 30. Emphases original.
  2. For a candid assessment of the uncertainty surrounding the belt (which is also sometimes called the Great Treaty Wampum Belt) and the difficulties facing any would-be interpreter, see Marshall Joseph Becker, “Lenape Land Sales, Treaties, and Wampum Belts,” Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 108, no. 3 (July 1984): 355–56.
  3. On Lenape and Haudenosaunee traditions of reading wampum, see Penelope Myrtle Kelsey, Reading the Wampum: Essays on Hodinöhsö:ni’ Visual Code and Epistemological Recovery (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2014). On the active role of audiences in reading, see Thomas DaCosta Kaufmann, “Reception Theory,” in The Dictionary of Art, ed. Jane Turner (New York: Grove, 1996), 26:61; Anne F. Harris, “The Reception of Stained Glass,” in Investigations in Medieval Stained Glass: Materials, Methods, and Expressions, ed. Elizabeth Carson Pastan and Brigitte Kurmann-Schwarz (Boston: Brill, 2019), 202.
  4. For a summary of my own methodological interests, see Kerr Houston, The Place of the Viewer: The Embodied Viewer in the History of Art, 17641968 (Boston: Brill, 2019). Perhaps the clearest evidence of a rejuvenated scholarly interest in wampum is the remarkable ongoing collaborative project “On the Wampum Trail: Restorative Research in North American Museums,” headed by Margaret Bruchac: Instances of recent museological interest in wampum include the exhibitions Nation to Nation: Treaties Between the United States and American Indian Nations, ongoing at the National Museum of the American Indian, and Wampum: Beads of Diplomacy in New France, at the Musée du quai Branly—Jacques Chirac (2022).
  5. For a recent overview of reception theory in an art-historical context, see Michael W. Cothren and Anne D’Alleva, Methods and Theories of Art History, 3rd ed. (London: Laurence King, 2021), 144–52; also useful is Michael Ann Holly, “Reciprocity and Reception Theory,” in A Companion to Art Theory, ed. Paul Smith and Carolyn Wilde (Oxford: Blackwell, 2002), 448–57.
  6. Tehanetorens, Wampum Belts of the Iroquois (Summertown, TN: Native Voices, 1999), 82.
  7. Alison Duncan Hirsch, “Indian, Métis, and Euro-American Women on Multiple Frontiers,” in Friends and Enemies in Penn’s Woods: Indians, Colonists, and the Racial Construction of Pennsylvania, ed. William A. Pencak and Daniel K. Richter (University Park, PA: Penn State University Press, 2004), 63.
  8. Most scholars assume that the belt dates to the 1680s. For a rare contrary view that dates the belt to the years after 1750, see Marshall J. Becker, “A Wampum Belt Chronology: Origins to Modern Times,” Northeast Anthropology 63 (Spring 2002): 59.
  9. Robert A. Williams, Linking Arms Together: American Indian Treaty Visions of Law and Peace, 16001800 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997), 77; Margaret M. Bruchac, “Broken Chains of Custody: Possessing, Dispossessing, and Repossessing Lost Wampum Belts,” Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 162, no. 1 (March 2018): 67–68. On other uses of wampum belts, which could also serve ornamental, communicative, diplomatic, oratorical, archival, integrative, and jurisgenerative ends, see Lynn Ceci, “The Value of Wampum among the New York Haudenosaunee: A Case Study in Artifact Analysis,” Journal of Anthropological Research 38, no. 1 (Spring 1982): 100; Nancy L. Hagedorn, “‘With the Air and Gesture of an Orator: Council Oratory, Translation, and Cultural Mediation during Anglo-Iroquois Treaty Conferences, 1690–1774,” in New Trends in Translation and Cultural Identity, ed. Micaela Muñoz-Calvo, M. Ángeles Ruiz-Moneva, and Carmen Buesa-Gómez (Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars, 2008), 42n13.
  10. Williams, Linking Arms Together, 115–16. For a specific historical example from September 15, 1685, see Daniel K. Richter, “Rediscovered Links in the Covenant Chain: Previously Unpublished Transcripts of New York Indian Treaty Minutes, 1677–1691,” Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society 92 (January 1982): 60.
  11. Jean R. Soderlund, ed., William Penn and the Founding of Pennsylvania, 16801684: A Documentary History (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1983), 88.
  12. J. B. {John Bulwer} Gent, Chirologia: or, The Naturall Language of the Hand . . . (London: Tho. Harper, 1644), 109.
  13. On seventeenth-century interest in the universality of gesture, see Dilwyn Knox, “Late Medieval and Renaissance Ideas on Gesture,” in Die Sprache der Zeichen und Bilder: Rhetorik und nonverbale Kommunikation in der frühen Neuzeit, ed. Volker Kapp (Marburg: Hitzeroth, 1990), 11; Adam Kendon, Gesture: Visible Action as Utterance (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 355; James Knowlson, Universal Language Schemes in England and France, 1600–1800 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1975).
  14. Frank G. Speck, The Penn Wampum Belts, Leaflets of the Museum of the American Indian Heye Foundation 4 (New York: De Vinne, 1925), 13.
  15. Frank G. Speck, “The Functions of Wampum Among the Eastern Algonkian,” Memoirs of the American Anthropological Association 6, no. 1 (1919): 37–38; Speck, The Penn Wampum Belts, 12–13.
  16. William M. Beauchamp, “Wampum and Shell Articles Used by the New York Indians,” Bulletin of the New York State Museum 41, no. 8 (February 1901): 388, 400.
  17. For a sensitive consideration of the broader figurative implications of collective readings of wampum within Native communities, see Kelsey, Reading the Wampum, esp. 101–2.
  18. Hirsch, “Indian, Métis, and Euro-American Women on Multiple Frontiers,” 63.
  19. Wolfgang Iser, The Act of Reading: A Theory of Aesthetic Response (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1978), 169–79. My analysis here is also informed by Karen Rose Mathews, “Reading Romanesque Sculpture: The Iconography and Reception of the South Portal Sculpture at Santiago de Compostela,” Gesta 39, no. 1 (2000): 3–12.
  20. On the notion of cultural parallelism in relation to the recurring two-row motif in certain wampum belts, see Grace Li Xiu Woo, Ghost Dancing with Colonialism: Decolonization and Indigenous Rights at the Supreme Court of Canada (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 2011), 6. On the importance of mutuality and reciprocity to the Haudenosaunee and Lenape, see Jon Parmenter, The Edge of the Woods: Iroquoia, 1534–1701 (East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2010), xxvii; Nicole Eustace, Covered with Night: A Story of Murder and Indigenous Justice in Early America (New York: Liveright, 2021), 11, 50–51; on the themes in relationship to wampum, see Ceci, “The Value of Wampum among the New York Haudenosaunee,” 102.
  21. Speck, The Penn Wampum Belts, 13. Also relevant here is Beauchamp, “Wampum and Shell Articles Used by the New York Indians,” 394.
  22. Peter Lindeström, Geographia Americae: With An Account of the Delaware Indians, Based on Surveys and Notes Made in 16541656, trans. Amandus Johnson (Philadelphia: Swedish Colonial Society, 1925), 196.
  23. Arthur Einhorn and Thomas S. Abler, “Bonnets, Plumes, and Headbands in West’s Painting of Penn’s Treaty,” American Indian Art 21, no. 3 (1996): 47–48.
  24. On the steps involved in production, see James D. Burggraf, “Some Notes on the Manufacture of Wampum Prior to 1654,” American Antiquity 4, no. 1 (July 1938): 57. For a discussion of relative production rates, see Ceci, “The Value of Wampum among the New York Haudenosaunee,” 100.
  25. On the connotations of purple beads, see James Merrell, Into the American Woods: Negotiators on the Pennsylvania Frontier (New York: W. W. Norton, 1999), 189. For the claim that among the Delaware, “purple was a royal color,” see Hezekiah Butterworth, The Wampum Belt: or, “The Fairest Page of History” (New York: D. Appleton, 1897), 1.
  26. Speck, The Penn Wampum Belts, 13. Also relevant here is Margaret M. Bruchac’s contention that the two figures may signify communities, rather than individuals; “Recovering Relationships: Reading Lenape Wampum Belts in American Museums,” Philadelphia Museum of Art webinar, March 16, 2023.
  27. Andrew R. Murphy, Liberty, Conscience, and Toleration: The Political Thought of William Penn (New York: Oxford University Press, 2016), 69.
  28. Gospel-Truth Demonstrated in a Collection of Doctrinal Books (London: T. Sowle, 1706), 107. Fox’s criticism had originally appeared in a 1657 tract entitled “Concerning the Worlds {sic} Hypocritical Salutations.”
  29. Court proceedings, quoted in Murphy, Liberty, Conscience, and Toleration, 70. The transcript of the trial was originally published in The Peoples Ancient and Just Liberties Asserted . . . (London, c. 1670).
  30. In a 1660 tract, for instance, Thomas Underhill wrote mockingly of the Quaker stance that “bowing the body, and putting off the Hat unto one another, is an Heathenish Custome, and Idolatry”; Hell Broke Loose: Or an History of the Quakers (London: Simon Miller, 1660), 18. Emphasis original.
  31. Beauchamp, “Wampum and Shell Articles Used by the New York Indians,” 394.
  32. For the initial uses of these influential concepts, see Stanley Fish, Is There a Text in This Class? The Authority of Interpretive Communities (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1980); Hans Robert Jauss, Toward an Aesthetic of Reception, trans. Timothy Bahti (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1982).
  33. Bulwer, Chirologia, n.p. Also relevant here is Céline Carayon, Eloquence Embodied: Nonverbal Communication among French and Indigenous Peoples in the Americas (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2019), 355.
  34. Bulwer, Chirologia, 101. He calls this gesture reconcilio and describes it as “when we GIVE OUR HAND, we doe seal as it were an obligation or reall contract.”
  35. Soderlund, William Penn and the Founding of Pennsylvania, 316. The passage originally appeared in Penn’s letter to the Free Society of Traders.
  36. Also relevant is The Christian-Quaker, and His Divine Testimony Vindicated (London, 1674), 65.
  37. Soderlund, William Penn and the Founding of Pennsylvania, 168.
  38. Soderlund, William Penn and the Founding of Pennsylvania, 41.
  39. Bruchac, “Recovering Relationships.” On exceptions to this general pattern, see George S. Snyderman, “The Functions of Wampum,” Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 98, no. 6 (December 23, 1954): 484.
  40. Peter Harrison, “‘Fill the Earth and Subdue It:’ Biblical Warrants for Colonization in Seventeenth Century England,” Journal of Religious History 29, no. 1 (February 2005): 4.
  41. A Map of Some of the South and east bounds of Pennsylvania in America, being partly Inhabited (London: John Thornton, 1681).
  42. Emily Mann, “Beyond the Bounds, Exploitation and Empire in the First Map of Pennsylvania,” in The Worlds of William Penn, ed. Andrew R. Murphy and John Smolenski (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2019), 79–81. Also relevant is Penn’s characterization, in 1683, of Lord Baltimore’s territory as “being all of it uncultivated and unplanted, saving by a few savage natives”; quoted in Soderlund, William Penn and the Founding of Pennsylvania, 328.
  43. Merrell, Into the American Woods, 189.
  44. Perhaps the most relevant embodiment of these principles is the Guswenta, or Haudenosaunee Two Row Wampum Treaty. For a discussion of the belt’s evocation of cultural separatism, see Robert W. Venables, “The Treaty of Canandaigua (1794): Past and Present,” in Enduring Legacies: Native American Treaties and Contemporary Controversies, ed. Bruce E. Johansen (Westport, CT: Praeger, 2004), 76–77.
  45. My characterization of the Lenape is based on a recorded speech by Hithquoquean in 1694; see Donald H. Kent, ed., Early American Indian Documents: Treaties and Laws, 16071789 (Washington, DC: University Publications of America, 1979), 1:89. On other outbreaks of violence, see Soderlund, William Penn and the Founding of Pennsylvania, 207.
  46. Michael Dean Mackintosh, “New Sweden, Natives, and Nature,” in Pencak and Richter, Friends and Enemies in Penn’s Woods, 14.
  47. Carayon, Eloquence Embodied, 355.
  48. Anthony F.C. Wallace, “How to Buy a Continent: The Protocol of Indian Treaties as Developed by Benjamin Franklin and Other Members of the American Philosophical Society,” Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 159, no. 3 (September 2015): 257.
  49. Merrell, Into the American Woods, 37.
  50.  Relatedly, there is now a valuable body of scholarship on the complex intercultural aspects of treaty negotiation in the Delaware Valley in the late 1600s. For a summary of that literature and an influential analysis of the role of cross-cultural adjudication in the development of Pennsylvanian treaties, see Vicki Hsueh, Hybrid Constitutions: Challenging Legacies of Law, Privilege, and Culture in Colonial America (Durham: Duke University Press, 2010), 84–85, 110.

About the Author(s): Kerr Houston is a professor in the Department of the History of Art, Design, and Visual Culture at the Maryland Institute College of Art.