The Wampum Trail Research Team

Margaret Bruchac beside the Connecticut River in Hadley, Massachusetts

Margaret Bruchac beside the Connecticut River in Hadley, Massachusetts.

Dr. Margaret Bruchac, as Project Director, oversees the field research and serves as the liaison with museums, curators, and tribal representatives. She manages student training in archival research, material analysis, and historical documentation. Bruchac is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Coordinator of the Native American and Indigenous Studies Initiative at Penn. She also serves as an Associate Professor in the Penn Cultural Heritage Center and a Consulting Scholar to the American Section of the Penn Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. Her scholarship focuses on Indigenous material culture, colonial history, cultural performance, and museums. This wampum project emerged out of her repatriation research for Native communities, tracing the circulation of wampum belts (and other significant items) among museums and collectors.

“By pursuing this research in the northeast, I am stepping onto trails laid out many decades earlier by Indigenous collaborators who reached across cultural boundaries to function as translators, gatekeepers, and informants for previous generations of anthropologists (some of whom were better listeners than others).” Read Marge’s full statement here.

Stephanie Mach at the UConn Avery Point campus.

Stephanie Mach at the UConn Avery Point campus.


Stephanie Mach, a doctoral student at Penn, also works as Student Engagement Coordinator in the office of Academic Engagement at the Penn Museum. For her Masters’ Degree, she studied expressions of survivance in contemporary Native American art and the evolution of museum display techniques at the National Museum of the American Indian. She is steadily expanding her research on the cultural and material production and significance of Indigenous art in museums. In 2014, she was accepted as a Research Fellow in the Great Lakes Research Alliance for the Study of Aboriginal Arts and Culture (GRASAC), an alliance of scholars and tribal cultural experts.

By contributing to wampum studies and by sharing insights that are acceptable to share, I hope to help convey, to a broader audience, the significance of wampum for the indigenous people who wield this powerful medium in constructing personal, tribal, and national identities.” Read Stephanie’s full statement here.

Lise Puyo on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean in Connecticut.

Lise Puyo, a doctoral student at the University of Pennsylvania, completed her Masters’ Thesis in 2015, starting at Université Lumière in Lyon and ending at École des hautes études en sciences sociales in Paris. From 2013-14, she was an exchange student at Penn and volunteer research intern for the Penn Cultural Heritage Center. Lise has been conducting surveys and material analyses of wampum in French museums to recover data on historical connections among the Jesuits in New France, Huron and other First Nations people, and wampum in the French royal treasury. Her fluency in both French and English has been particularly helpful in conducting research in French and Canadian museums and archives.

“All the interpretations of wampum overlap and compete with each other, when in fact they should complete each other.” Read Lise’s full statement here.

Sarah Parkinson beside a woodland lake somewhere in northern Ontario.

Sarah Parkinson beside a woodland lake somewhere in northern Ontario.


During the 2014-2015 academic year, Sarah Parkinson, an undergraduate majoring in Cultural Anthropology at Penn, assisted the team by transcribing the 2014 and 2015 field notes. She assisted in examining collections at the National Museum of the American Indian in March, and in May, she joined the Wampum Trail team for three weeks in museums in the northeastern US and Canada. During the summer of 2015, Sarah continued this work by drafting research reports and transcribing archival data on wampum belts examined by the team. This research project gave her the opportunity to investigate the ways that museums create knowledge about their collections, to apply new methodologies to better understand material objects, and to related those objects to living communities. Sarah also worked in the American Section of the Penn Museum, and served as a work-study student for the Penn Cultural Heritage Center during the 2015-2016 academic year.

“Wampum interests me in that its stories are hidden within its minute details, between the warps and wefts, in the beads and in the archives.” Read Sarah’s full statement here.


Zhenia Bemko working in a library archive.

Zhenia Bemko working in a library archive.

During the 2014-2015 academic year, Zhenia Bemko, an LPS undergraduate junior at Penn, assisted with transcribing field notes from 2014. In March of 2015, she joined the team to visited the collections and exhibitions at the National Museum of the American Indian, and in May 2015, she spent a week with the Wampum Trail team in the northeast, before heading south to spend a month learning archaeology with the Smith Creek Archaeological Project. She also serves as a volunteer in the Repatriation Office of the Penn Museum. At Penn, Zhenia studied anthropology, Native American Studies, and international relations. She was particularly interested in the role of wampum belts as living memoirs of social relations and international diplomacy.

“This research is like a living memoir, attempting to create a holistic object history for a single wampum belt, as a means of beginning to repair its current fragmented state.” 

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