Gila River, AZ
Gordell Wright is from the Shinnecock Nation on Long Island, New York. He has been making wampum for twelve years, focusing mainly on carving heishi and tube beads to make into jewelry. His wampum earrings are made with sterling silver, and he often collaborates on pieces with silver-, quill-, and bead-workers. Gordell started making wampum in his friend’s “wampum factory” on the Poospatuck Reservation, also on Long Island — a group of guys who spent all their days carving wampum, which is shaped from clam shells using small drill bits, and typically sold by the strand.
Gordell currently lives on the Gila River Indian Reservation in Arizona, bringing a Northeast Coastal tradition to the Southwest. He is proud to carry on the wampum tradition, which has always had great value in Shinnecock culture, with shell beads used for personal adornment, trade, in ceremonies, and to honor people and events. Wampum belts document treaties, alliances, prophecies, and important historical moments. Gordell says the shells with the best colors are found between New Jersey and Massachusetts. He gets his from a fisherman in Massachusetts, as well as relatives on Long Island, and from walks he takes along the shoreline when he’s home.