Julian Greendeer, Wampum Artist, Plans to Expand Jewelry Business Across the Country


Riley Guyette, Editor-in-Chief, Online Tritonian

NDA senior Julian Greendeer has spent the last year making and selling wampum jewelry.

A wampum is a piece of Native American jewelry made from shells of quahog clams—an extremely durable purple and white clam. 

This jewelry is personally significant to Greendeer because he is part narragansett and his step mom being wampanoag—two of the tribes that created wampum.

He has been making his jewelry for a year and a couple months, but didn’t start actually selling his works until about a month later. 

His stepmom, who owns a Native American jewelry art shop, suggested that he start selling his art.  

“Knowing the importance as well as the value of wampum, I thought it was a good way for me to make money and share my culture with other people,” said the senior.

Making one piece of jewelry can take Greendeer anywhere from 45 minutes to eight hours and requires him to make a trip to Massachusetts to gather the shells. 

“I go out in bays during low tide and walk out into the water and dig for the quahog,” he explained. “I take my feet and I twist them to go into the sand, and I will feel for something that feels like a big stone. I’ll then go under the water and grab out the quahog.” 

After gathering enough quahogs, he will open them up and put the meat into a container which he either eats or gives away.

He will then use a hand dremel to drill different shapes like circles, squares and triangles into the shells. 

On top of all of this the process must be done underwater because the dust is toxic and can cause lung cancer.

“Once I get each shape formed I’ll tumble the beads for a couple days to a couple weeks,” he explained.

Once the beads have been tumbled, he drills holes in them and creates different jewelry pieces like bracelets and earrings. 

The young entrepreneur has large plans for his business, explaining, “My plan for my small business is for it to expand nationally all over the U. S.”

He plans to accomplish this by entering more art shows and creating more connections across the country as well as having indigenous influencers wear his Jewelry.

He additionally hopes for his art to make an appearance on a tv show or movie.