This series of blog posts explores stories and teachings that Lorrie Gallant shares about the purpose and importance of territorial acknowledgments and treaties with a particular focus on the Dish with One Spoon Wampum. They are based on a recorded webinar from March 18 2020. Lorrie is a writer, illustrator, storyteller, visual artist, educator, Expressive Arts Practitioner, born and raised on Six Nations of the Grand River Territory in Ontario.
These posts and activities have been written for students to explore as part of an in person, hybrid or virtual learning community.
This lesson explores the Dish with One Spoon Wampum, a formal peace agreement between the Anishinaabe Three Fires Confederacy (Ojibwe, Odawa and Potawatomi Nations) and Haudenosaunee Confederacies that extends to all those who arrived to the area around the Great Lakes region and along the St. Lawrence River.
In this first activity, you will be thinking about the kinds of agreements you have made and the role they play in the relationships you hold.
In your journal, reflect on the following questions. Then, take a moment to discuss your answers to the following questions with a partner, or in a small group.
(i.e. via Padlet, Google Hangout, Microsoft Team, Google Classroom thread or during an in-person “Walk and talk”: Based on Kasha Kikkert Duff’s “Walking Wednesdays”)
Part A: Reflecting on Personal Relationships and Agreements
What are three or four spoken or unspoken agreements you have with either your friends, family, and/or community that are important for maintaining good relations? (These could be household rules, faith-based rules, personal boundaries or laws that are set out on paper by your community/government.)
- What purpose do these agreements serve?
Part B: Reflecting on Our Relationships as a Society
Let’s take a step back as we think more broadly about the important agreements and the legal obligations that a community (for example, school community, neighbourhood, town or city) has.
All societies - communities, countries, provinces or territories - have a universe of obligation that is reflected in the laws, agreements, values, norms and commitments it holds. A society’s universe of obligation includes the people who that society believes are deserving of respect and whose rights it believes are worthy of protection. A society’s universe of obligation often changes, expanding or shrinking depending on circumstances.
1. Sociologist Helen Fein coined the term 'universe of obligation' to describe the circle of individuals and groups within a society “toward whom obligations are owed, to whom rules apply, and whose injuries call for amends.” As you will watch in the video below, Lorrie herself added 7 generations forward and back, as well as all living things - not just people - when she filled in the universe of obligation.
As a class, discuss the following concepts and questions:
- How do you define your community’s universe of obligation (what individuals, groups or beings are in each of the numbered circles)?
- What are some of the agreements and legal obligations that (can or do) ensure the members in the centre of your community’s universe of obligation can lead healthy, peaceful lives and enjoy belonging? What agreements and legal obligations work to ensure that individuals and groups in the outer rings of your community’s universe of obligation can lead healthy, peaceful lives and enjoy belonging?
- How do the agreements and legal obligations in your community differ as you move further away from the centre?
Aaron Mills, Canada Research Chair on Indigenous Constitutionalism and Philosophy at the University of McGill writes,
“There’s a powerful word in Anishinaabemowin that grounds this vision of treaty and this entire discussion: miinigowiziwin… As individuals, none of us has all the gifts necessary for a good life, minobimaadiziwin; each of us depends on the gifts of others. This is true not just of the sacred gifts… but also of the more mundane gifts the average day calls upon: sacrifice, care, labour, knowledge, skills and abilities...Therefore it’s necessary, for creation to continue, that different kinds of beings (including different human societies) vary as much as we do.... Gete-Anishinaabe Ken Courchene says: 'look at how we sat in a circle. All differently. We got to sit in this way. Everyone is different and yet equal. And we always had that belief, that difference is not to segregate someone [as] higher or lower.’”1
- In what ways does your community depend on the gifts of others outside your defined community?
Look back at the individuals and groups you named in your community’s universe of obligation. How do agreements and legal obligations held between the different individuals or groups in your community's universe of obligation reflect or conflict with the kind of mutually reliant and equal relationships Mills and Courchene speak of?
Explainer: What are Treaties?
- Treaties are legal agreements made between two or more nations.
- Treaty-making preceded North American settlement.
- Treaty outlines the terms, relationship and conditions of settlement in Indigenous Territories.
- Both Settler and Indigenous Nations have a responsibility for knowing and upholding the Treaty obligations.
Historian Dr. Karine Duhamel writes in “Gakina Gidagwi’igoomin Anishinaabeweyang: We are All Treaty People,”:
“The intent of Treaties at the time of their negotiation was the protection and retention of rights to languages, ways of life, and existing belief systems. This undertaking is part of the original understanding of Treaty processes as ongoing relationships that are dynamic and adaptable.
Treaties were about retaining a way of life that included hunting, fishing, and gathering, as well as a relationship to the land that existed for thousands of years prior to the arrival of Europeans. According to First Nations signatories of the Treaties, as well as to Knowledge Keepers today, the land and everything on it is alive.”
According to Anishinaabe Elder Harry Bone in the radio series Let’s Talk Treaty, “Treaties are part of the first law — the constitution of First Nations — that involves the idea of entering into peaceful arrangements with newcomers on an equal, nation-to-nation basis.”
One example of a treaty between nations is the Dish With One Spoon Wampum which you will learn more about in the following video.
View the video below. While watching, write down 1 quote that stands out to you and in your journal, explain why you chose it. Be prepared to discuss with classmates:
Here Lorrie shares some of the teachings she carries about living treaties and the ways in which treaties connect to territorial acknowledgements.
“The symbolism [of the Dish With One Spoon Wampum] was you never take more than you need and you always make sure there is something left for the next person.” -Lorrie Gallant
Understanding the Origins of the Dish With One Spoon Wampum
As described by Well Living House, The Dish With One Spoon Wampum is a “mutually beneficial [agreement]” that “was designed to create peaceful hunting conditions for nations in close proximity to each other.”
"The Dish With One Spoon Wampum uses purple and white beads that represent friendship and peace. The purple 'dish' represents the Continent (Turtle Island) and all the different Nations. The white centre represents the tail of a beaver, or the resources of Turtle Island. Nations are only to eat from the dish with one spoon, meaning that resources should be shared, each territory should be respected and nations will not war with each other for the domination of the resources. This is symbolized by removing the presence of a knife with the dish and spoon.
While The Dish with One Spoon was established long before settlers arrived, it was expected that everyone that came to the region would abide by its rules and acknowledge the existence, history and integrity of the agreement. Instead of a shared commitment to the land, settlers conquered and took ownership over the land and it's resources. This is an ongoing living agreement." - Lorrie Gallant
- How are Treaties, as described here, similar to the agreements and legal obligations between societies that you were asked to think about in Activity 1? What feels unique or distinctive about treaties?
Activity 3. Journal, Pair, Share
After viewing the video, reflect on the following connection questions in your journal and then with a partner (i.e. via Padlet, Google Hangout, Microsoft Team, Google Classroom thread or during an in-person “Walk and talk”: Based on Kasha Kikkert Duff’s “Walking Wednesdays”). Be prepared to share your learning with your class:
1. Take a moment to share with a classmate the quote from the video you chose to reflect on, and why you chose it.
2. The Dish with One Spoon Wampum is about sharing, caring for the land and ensuring enough resources for everyone, both in the present and future.
- What does this suggest about the universe of obligation of those who created the Dish with One Spoon Wampum to each other?
- How does the Dish With One Spoon Wampum connect or extend the ideas Mills and Courchene talk about?
3. Senator Justice Murray Sinclair, Truth and Reconciliation Commissioner, explains that for (re)conciliation to happen, Canada will need to come to a right relationship with Indigenous peoples, communities and nations. To do this, Aaron Mills writes that Canadians must move beyond “simply making space for Indigenous voices...I want you to live as if what we say matters… I want you to respect--and that means live by-- Indigenous legalities as they exist within Indigenous constitutional orders."2
- What does this mean to you?
- What choices can Canada make to honour the Dish with One Spoon Wampum as a living treaty?
- What choices can you, your school, and/or community make to honour the Dish with One Spoon Wampum as a living treaty?
Activity 4. Reflecting On Your Learning (Private)
Privately journal your responses to the following questions:
To what degree do you share these same values?
- How is this reflected in the choices that you make?
- What makes it difficult for you to uphold this agreement?
Continuing Your Learning
The Dish with One Spoon Wampum is one of many treaties that Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples were expected to abide by to ensure mutual health and belonging on shared lands. Subsequent treaties made between early French and British settlers and many Indigenous nations around the Great Lakes region added to this agreement. We encourage you to keep learning about these important treaties pursuant of a new and right relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in Canada.
- Two Row Wampum
- The Royal Proclamation of 1763
- Justice Murray Sinclair discusses his love hate relationship with the Royal Proclamation (2:41-7:01)
- The Treaty of Niagara (in 1764)
- The Canadian Constitution (1982)
- The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (2007)
- Learn about historic and modern treaties in Canada, treaty rights and the treaty relationship.
Current Events: Treaties in the News Today
To learn more about how treaties are turning up in current events:
- First Peoples Law: The Wet'suwet'en, Aboriginal Title, and the Rule of Law: An Explainer
- First Peoples Law: The Marshall Decision and Mi’kmaq Commercial Fishing Rights: An Explainer
This blog is co-written with Erez Zobary, Jasmine Wong and Lorrie Gallant.
1 Mills, Aaron. “Nokomis and the Law in the GIft.” Surviving Canada: Indigenous Peoples Celebrate 150 Years of Betrayal, Arbeiter Ring Publishing, 2017, p. 22.
2 Mills, Aaron. “Nokomis and the Law in the GIft.” Surviving Canada: Indigenous Peoples Celebrate 150 Years of Betrayal, Arbeiter Ring Publishing, 2017, p. 20.