The Beads that Bought Manhattan exhibit at Brown Arts Institute

The Beads that Bought Manhattan: The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP)” was on view in the Cohen Gallery at the Brown Arts Institute in October, 2021. It was presented in collaboration with the Native American and Indigenous Studies Initiative. Click here for a video of the one-hour program with Indigenous human rights lawyer Michelle Cook (Dine’) pictured above with artist Hartman Deetz (Mashpee Wampanoag) as they celebrated their project on the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).

Deetz has created a traditionally handcrafted wampum belt that documents UNDRIP, presented alongside a short film on the history of wampum by Michelle Cook and Teena Pugliese. Informative wall panels on display were designed by Olivia Cook (Diné). The Wampum Belt features the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People. The UN Declaration Belt is a modern Nation to Nation agreement in part drafted by Indigenous peoples that underscores the rights of self-determination, free and prior informed consent, equal protection of human rights, and control of Indigenous people’s economic rights.

The belt (pictured above) contains purple wampum, organe conch shell, abalone, and a blue stone bead. The 45 purple beads, and one blue stone bead, represent the 46 articles of the UN Declaration.

Cook said Deetz’s wampum belt helps draw attention to Indigenous peoples’ ongoing fight for equal rights in the U.S. and abroad. “Indigenous peoples in the U.S. are still unable to say no to development and extraction projects that occur within the traditional and ancestral territories they use and occupy,” Cook said. “We need to pressure decision-makers and financial institutions to make real their human rights rhetoric and protect the human rights and cultural survival of Indigenous peoples.”