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Grade 3-5

I Have No Money, Would You Take Wampum?

Updated: October 19 2017,


pile of moneyToday's lesson will help you learn about how people received goods and services before there were coins and paper money. You will also see that this exchange called trade or barter is still used.

Your teacher will share a folktale with you called, "The Wampum Bird."
Remember these characteristics that are found in some folktales:

  1. Folktales were used by early people to explain things they couldn't understand.
  2. Folktales may contain happenings that aren't true.
  3. Folktales might have animals that talk.
  4. People in folktales may perform superhuman tasks. Can you find these features in "The Wampum Bird"?

Task List

  • Recognize the inter-relatedness of goods, services, money.
  • Locate information about barter as a means of trade.
  • Use folk tales as an historical illustration of wampum.
  • Create a tie between wampum and currency.


  1. In a small group or with a partner talk about these words: goods, services, money. Can you think of a time when you traded…

    1. money for goods? 


  1. money for a service?
  2. goods for a service?
  3. service for goods?
  4. service for money?

Ask your teacher for samples if you cannot get started on your own. Talk about these with your group or partner.

  1. Read "The Barter System "

  wampumRead the story and take the pop quiz.

  1. Next visit the "Wampum Belts Fact Sheet "

    Notice the picture of the wampum belt. What colors do you see? Can you guess how the belt was made? Read the story about wampum. Turn to your partner or group and share two new ideas you learned by visiting this site.

  2. These last two sites will present a time line of the use of wampum, pictures of wampum, and a short description of how wampum is made.
  • This page includes more history of the uses of wampum.
  • The Haudenosaunee & Wampum provides several pictures of wampum and a short description of the making of wampum are located on this site.

From the information on the websites, discuss with your partner or group some of the people, places and ideas that were new to you and some of the people, places and ideas that you had heard of before and be ready to share your thoughts with the class.


From this lesson we can conclude that money may or may not be found in a trade, and that trades may or may not be fair to all traders.

Extension Activity

  • Construct your own strings of wampum with purple and white construction paper.
  • Cut long slender triangles, 8" long with 3/4" to 1" bases.
  • Roll the triangle around your pencil to shape it.
  • Tighten the wampum roll a bit, but leave a hole in the center.
  • Glue the roll.
  • Make a dozen or so of these rolls.
  • Carefully string the paper wampum beads on a piece of yarn.

Challenge: Share your wampum string with your family. For each bead you made, tell your family one important idea that you learned from this lesson.